Friday, October 31, 2008

lovely london blogging ladies

I can't believe it's the last day of VeganMoFo! This will be my 20th post for the month, meaning I barely eeked by with the minimum number of posts! (I did better last year, managing to blog every day for MoFo) It has been really fun, especially getting to read all of your blogs. And after this month is over, I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be blogging about being in England, traveling, eating well, and of course meeting awesome bloggers from all over the place. And today's post is dedicated to just that, 2 meet-ups with fellow bloggers that I've been very fortunate to have in the past week.

First up is Isil, of Veggie Way. I've always loved reading about her life as a vegan and a parent here in the U.K., and getting to see her lovely daughter Defne growing up.

She was such a cutie-pie-and she loves her veggies!

Isil suggested going to Wagamama, which made me very happy, because this chain of noodle shops is one I've always wanted to try, having heard about its awesome vegan food options. Above, you see Isil's soba ramen, which came in a big bowl packed with veggies and yummy broth.

And here's my huge plate of noodles- soba with a spicy chili sauce and veggies. This dish actually had a kick- I have to remind myself not to order spicy foods the first time I meet someone, because my nose has an embarassing way of running when I do...

Fortunately, we had our juices to soothe our mouths. Isil had carrot juice, and I had a mixture of apple, ginger, and passion fruit.

Afterward, we walked over to Covent Garden, over to Neal's Yard Salad Bar for vegan dessert!

This mostly vegetarian and vegan restaurant makes homemade vegan ice cream- ahhhh! The day's flavors were mango and chocolate, and since we couldn't decide between the two, we got them in swirl form. The chocolate was good, but the mango was divine! So fresh and tangy. I'll be sure to go back to this restaurant again, to take advantage of their vegan English breakfast offering and the veganized Brazilian specialties on the menu.

Then yesterday, I got to hang out with KathyF of What Do I Know? fame. Kathy has been so helpful to me, helping out a fellow vegan American get adjusted to life in England. Finally getting to meet was so fun! As you can see from the above business card, we had lunch at Rootmaster, a double-decker bus converted into a lovely vegan restaurant!

I kid you not.

The restaurant makes its own rustic bread, served here with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip.

Kathy had the chickpea fritters (in the back of the photo- I went about things backward, didn't I?) served with a side salad.

I had this mezze platter with guacamole (yum!), hummus (very smoky and good), bread, roasted veggies (courgette and red capsicum), sun-dried tomatoes, and last but not least, the prettiest olives ever. These babies were mild, buttery, toothsome,

...and pretty much the most technicolor green that I've ever seen on an olive. These were lovely and fun to share.

Before we finished our satisfying lunch and took a stroll through the National Gallery, I got to capture this money shot: a blogger's photo of a fellow blogger taking a photo. Ahhh, life is good.

I want to thank Isil and KathyF for taking the time to show me around London and for filling my tummy with exciting vegan foods! There is nothing like a bloggy meet-up to make you feel like everything is right with the world.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

random eats

Q: what do you get when you mix some noodles with some peanut sauce and spices, a whole lot of veggies and herbs,

and these really tasty VegiDeli brand Thai Style cakes?

A: A really satisfying faux-pad thai dish. Daiku and I both loved these noodles!

speaking of satisfying, talk about comfort food! heeding a serious craving for mashed potatoes, we decided to make this huge batch colcannon, the Irish dish of potatoes mashed with kale. To up the comfort-y factor, we were really generous with the margarine, and topped everything with a generous sprinkle of chopped chives. This was dinner- nothing more needed!

Here's a local Kentish specialty: cob nuts! These are grown right here around Canterbury, and nowhere else. (Or at least that's what the guy at the market said!) We picked up a bunch at the Eurofest that I blogged about earlier in the month...

... and then proceeded to realize that meant that we'd need to buy a nutcracker!

But it was totally worth it to get at these little suckers- cob nuts taste like a milder, sweeter fresh hazelnut- very addictive, and even better when roasted a bit. Yay for local food finds!

Finally, I couldn't resist posting this last photo, even though it's totally non-food-related. Even though we're in the U.K., Daiku and I both mailed in absentee ballots for next week's U.S. election. Here I am giving a "terrorist fist jab" to a giant sculpted fist in the British Museum, in case anyone had any doubts about who I'm rooting for for president...


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

swedish good eats: countryside edition

After spending 2 days in Stockholm, my uncle took Daiku and me to his cabin in the woods, a couple of hours to the southwest. This was so fun! The cabin is big and beautiful, but also very rustic. It felt so good to sit around the fire the night we got there, getting warm and cozy while the temperatures outside fell.

That night, as Daiku and Daii (daii is the Farsi word for uncle) sat down to a dinner of various kinds of pickled herring and gravad lax (cured salmon) with potatoes, I constructed the most delicious sandwiches- tomato, potato, and avocado on whole grain bread. Now I know there's nothing remotely seasonal or Swedish about avocados (or tomatoes for that matter!), these sandwiches really hit the spot. Besides... we would more than make of with lots of local food shortly.

The next day, we headed outside into the crisp fall air to tend to the garden and grounds and help close them up for the winter. However, we were surprised to find that the garden had kept growing in the previous weeks! There were 3 giant zucchini, which had amazingly survived the cold.

Green beans galore!

Potatoes to be dug up!

Daiku found a whole field of chanterelles growing beneath some trees!

There were even some young garlic and onion buds still to be had!

Here we are getting all the last apples off from the apple tree- there were so many! We left some on the low branches in case any animals were to wander by and want to munch on them...

With all that surprise garden bounty, we made a feast of a meal, something that really hit the spot after a day of working outside. (Well, Daii worked outside while Daiku and I took frequent breaks to come in the house and warm up! We aren't acclimated to the cold temperatures as well as him!)

Here you see: green beans, blanched with a few onions and dressed simply with vinaigrette, zucchini, sauteed with some olive oil and tomatoes, and potatoes and peas (peas that my uncle had picked from the garden in the summer and frozen) cooked with chanterelles. We couldn't get enough of this meal!

Even dessert was local and home-grown- these sour cherries came from daii's tree over the summer- he froze these for us, knowing how much we love sour cherries!

It was such a cool experience to be eating this sumptuous meal, in a cozy warm cabin, with great company, even though outside, the world was getting ready for its long winter nap.


Monday, October 27, 2008

salt licorice

a unique Swedish treat: salt licorice. this stuff is... hard to explain. at first, you get an intensely sour taste sensation, like a sour patch kid on crack. then, you get a mild and tasty black licorice. but, the second one you bite into has a distinctly... ammonia-esque flavor to it. and the third one, well there is no third one because the second one freaks you out too bad.

has anyone ever tried salt licorice? what do you think of it??


Saturday, October 25, 2008

satisfying veggie eats in Stockholm

as you walk through Stockholm, there are a lot of food stands, many selling grilled items like hot dogs, burgers, and falafel. many also have veggie dogs and veggie burgers- woo! just make sure to ask them to leave the creamy sauce off the veggie burger, and the yogurt sauce off the felafel, and you have a quick and tasty vegan snack as you're walking around.

my uncle had scouted this wonderful veggie restaurant for us, the Légumes Vegetariskt Matcafé on Hornsgatan, in his neighborhood of Södermalm. 

This casual restaurant allows you to pick from among a lot of options, to assemble a plate to your taste. Out of about 20 different dishes, only 2 were vegetarian, all the rest were vegan. On my plate above, you see brown rice, a stew made with potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers, some soy beef in a spicy sauce, a couple of stuffed grape leaves, and some salad. This was so satisfying! Unfortunately, I was stuffed after the first plate- I say unfortunately, because you can go back and get refills if you want. Daiku and my uncle both took advantage of that option!

More Swedish foods to come!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

some swedish things

we got to stay with my uncle, who lives in Stockholm, when we visited Sweden. I love staying in someone's house rather than in a hotel when traveling, because you get to experience some everyday things that way, my favorite among them being shopping at supermarkets and getting a sense of regular local foods. 

the first would be blåbärssoppa, or blueberry soup. this is a bit of a national dish, I take it, and it is simply a sweetened and slightly thickened blueberry soup! it is really tasty. we also tried strawberry kråm, which is the same concept (fruit soup) but much thicker. these were good for breakfast, but after long walks around the city, they are especially rehydrating and refreshing. 

one pregan item I miss a lot, that Europe is an especially good place for, is keffir, which is a a thinner and drinkable yogurt. I found perhaps the best vegan version of keffir when I tried these little Oatly smoothies. They are so good and tangy!

I can't speak very much Swedish at all, but I can work out that this label says "oats + chocolate = good!" and I wholeheartedly agree:

Oatly's chocolate milk is one of the best I've ever tasted, with a subtle and not-too-sweet flavor and satisfying rich texture.  I really wish that Oatly would start exporting all their products (like their oat cream, perfect for cooking and baking) to the U.S. already! 

Finally, one of my favorite things about the Swedish supermarkets I visited: behold an entire WALL of crispbreads! It's like crispbread heaven up there, I'm telling you. (you have to click on this photo to enlarge it. =)


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm a bad mofo! And survey

I've been such a bad mofo! Daiku and I went to Sweden last week and I took the laptop along, fully intending to keep up a regular schedule of blogging... but then life got in the way! Is it just me, or is it difficult to travel-blog? Anyway, everything will have to be moved up a week: my drawing (and in my guilt, I'll draw two names instead of one!), my reports from Sweden (one word: yum!), and everything else mofo. I hope you guys forgive me!

As a quick jump back into blogging, I thought I'd do this survey, created by the fabulous Jess of Get Sconed! 

1. What was the most recent tea you drank?

I just finished a cup of Clipper Originals Fair Trade (black) tea with soymilk.

2. What vegan forms do you post/lurk on? If so, what is your username? Spill!

I post (probably way too much) on the PPK, as bazu. I also follow some vegan groups and people on LiveJournal, but I'm not very active there. My LJ name is thebazu, only because bazu was already taken- huh?

3. You have to have tofu for dinner, and it has be an Italian dish. What comes to mind first?

Tofu meatballs and spaghtetti and marinara sauce! Although I've been craving lasagna lately, so maybe lasagna with tofu ricotta.

4. How many vegan blogs do you read on an average day?

Wow. It used to be about 50-60!  Right now, I'm lucky if I can visit about 5 a day.

5. Besides your own, what is the most recent one you’ve read?

I read Jess' blog to get this survey, obviously! Before that, I read Luciana's Kitchen, and I got the link to that from Have Cake Will Travel, because I just have to know what those fabulous ladies are up to. And can I just give a shout-out to Vegan Noodle- hasn't she been doing the most awesome mofo posts ever? Wow!

6. If you could hang out with a vegan blogger that you haven’t met, who would it be, and what would you do?

Like Jess, I would love to hang out with Urban Vegan in Philadelphia! Also, I'd love to hang out with Celine and witness that magic that goes on in her kitchen all day long! I'm very excited that I will get to meet up with Mihl very soon in Germany! I've been so fortunate to meet bloggers in real life, and it has been a blast every single time. I want more!

7. If you had to base your dinners for a week around one of the holy trilogy – tofu, seitan or tempeh, which would it be?

tempeh, tempeh, tempeh.
(just look at all the nommy things that come up if you go into my flickr and search "tempeh")

8. If you had to use one in a fight, which would it be?

I don't get this question... but I guess if I squirted silken tofu into your hair during a fight, you'd have a pretty hard time getting it out, right?

9. Name 3 meals you’d realistically make with that tough protein of choice!

3 meals with silken tofu? Hmmmm... some sort of spinach/artichoke/nutritional yeast bake.

and of course, some chocolate mousse- maybe orange-chocolate or chili-chocolate.

10. What’s a recipe in vegan blogland that you’ve been eyeing?

oh, way too many to name. and my current kitchen resources are pretty limited!

11. Do you own any clothing with vegan messages/brands on them?

a bunch of shirts from Herbivore, Peta, etc. I love my "cow hugger" shirt a lot! The awesome Trac also knit me these kick-ass gloves that say "harm none" on them- aren't they cute?

12. Have you made your pilgrimage to the 'vegan mecca' yet? (Portland, duh)

no! not yet.

13. What age did you first go vegan? Did it stick?

I first went vegan on my 18th birthday. Unfortunately, it didn't stick. Then I went vegan again when I was 24 and haven't looked back since!

14. What is the worst vegan meal you’ve had? Who cooked it?

I honestly can't think of any bad vegan meals. Who knew I was such a glass-half-full kind of person? Even when the food is underwhelming, I'm usually so grateful to have something to eat, you know?

15. What made you decide to blog?

Vegan Lunchbox and Urban Vegan, and my love of documenting my eating and its evolution. There's a definite anthropological urge behind blogging, isn't there?

16. What are three of your favorite meals to make?

I love a good big salad. My most recent was a take on a Lebanese salad: mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, spring onion, avocado, red capsicum, cilantro, and toasted whole wheat pita with a lemon-olive oil dressing. Ahhh.

I also love making waffles- I only recently got a waffle maker and now I don't know how I lived without it!
Finally, I'll have to go with potato salad. I just love a good big dill-y potato salad.

17. What dish would you bring to a vegan Thanksgiving-themed potluck?

Either apple cinnamon buns (a new recipe I've been dying to try), or a nice loaf of sourdough bread.

18. Where is your favorite vegan meal at a restaurant? How many times have you ordered it?

I haven't ordered it very frequently, but I love the tempeh reuben at Sacred Chow. 

19. What do you think the best chain to dine as a vegan is?

I'll give American answers here, since I'm no expert on British chains yet! I am always grateful for Subway on long road-trips. Less frequently, I love California Pizza Kitchen and P.F. Chang's. I don't dine at chains too often, but am always satisfied at those places.

20. My kitchen needs ………

me in it! I miss it so much! But let's see... I need a good half-sheet cake pan, a potato masher, and a vitamix would always be nice...

21. This vegetable is not allowed in my kitchen…..!

There is no vegetable not allowed in my kitchen!

22. What's for dinner tonight?

I actually have to figure this out right now! Hmmm, I have a lot of noodles on hand...

23. Compose your perfect vegan sandwich, right now.

Hmmmm. I'll take a pepperoni/avocado/tomato/mozarella panini, with lots of extra virgin olive oil, please!

24. Add a question here!

I'd love to hear your takes on this survey- leave me a comment to let me know if you fill it out!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

blog action day (poverty): mofo with no fo

Tonight's mofo will have no fo- no food, that is. It's because today is Blog Action Day, and this year's theme is poverty. In the past year, as food prices rose in many parts of the world, a lot of us began taking a second look at the relationship between food and justice. As many vegans come to realize, issues of ethics and justice are inextricably bound up with what we choose to put on our tables and in our mouths. However, many of us feel powerless to truly affect change in the global problems that so many face- poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, and the plethora of other challenges brought on by the lack of food. I don't pretend to offer a sweeping solution. Just a small suggestion. Fasting. I have never really fasted before, for any reason. Growing up in Iran, I saw adults all around me go without food or water from sunrise until sunset for the month of Ramadan, but I never took the plunge myself. For an entire month, you are supposed to go without food or water when the sun is out. You are supposed to pray. You are supposed to make charitable donations. You are supposed to keep your mind and your thoughts pure and filled with good thoughts. This year, Ramadan was in September. While I didn't fast in the religious sense of the word (I am not really a religious person at all), I did experiment with fasting fully for a few days. I decided that, leaving religious dogma aside, I would fast for those days to get closer to the purpose of Ramadan as I understand it- to feel empathy for fellow human beings who are not fortunate. And you know what? Fasting is a powerful form of meditation. When you take yourself out of the daily ritual of food (what am I making? what am I eating? what am I buying? what am I preparing? what recipe am I using? what am I blogging about?) you free up a lot of brain space to instead think about what all those acts represent. You begin to see how incredibly fortunate you are that you get to be picky about what brand of soy milk or bread you buy, and what kind of water you like better. We are so fortunate to be able to eat not just to nourish our bodies, but also for fun, for health, for entertainment, for learning.

Of course, I am not saying that food is bad, or that those with ready access to food are bad people. What I wanted to point out was how easy it is to become detached from our place in the cycle of food and justice in the world- to forget the roles we play and can play. On one of the days I was fasting, we were holding a birthday celebration for my grandmother. I made and decorated a cake for her. And when the sun went down and I broke my fast by sharing a slice of cake with her, I was reminded of how powerful food truly is.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

brunch: what's your pleasure?

Most of you probably already know that brunch is my favorite meal. The main reason is because brunch breaks down the barriers of what a "proper" breakfast or lunch should be- the possibilities are wide open. Testing recipes for Isa's upcoming brunch book has broadened the horizons even more- if there is one thing this book teaches us, it's that the only limits for brunch are those set by your mood and your appetite. Do you perhaps want something mildly sweet (like the cardamom and apricot coffee cake, above), or something more decadent like the pain au chocolat (phyllo pastry baked with a chocolate and banana filling, below)?

Or maybe you're more traditional and old-school- how about an omelette filled with mushrooms and caramelized onion, below?

Feeling more adventurous? Daiku and I are huge fans of the chesapeake tempeh cakes with remoulade sauce, below. The tempeh cakes are a perfect mix of crispy sea flavors, while the sauce adds the right spicy kick.

Or perhaps, my favorite. Being in England and passing by fish and chips shops is so much easier because I know that Isa has invented, no exaggeration, the world's best beer batter recipe. In the below photo, you see beer-battered tofu. As any Alton Brown fan knows, a perfectly fried food is light and crispy- not heavy and greasy. The beer-battered tofu (or you can beer-batter whatever you fancy with the recipe) is light, flavorful, and lip-smacking. 

So what will it be for brunch for you?