I AM going on the Vegan Venture course after all!

I was so excited when I answered my phone this afternoon (it’s lucky I even noticed it was ringing, it’s normally on silent and out of sight) and the friendly woman on the other end of the call said “we have a space on the Vegan Venture course after all, would you like it?”. There was a waiting list of NINE but by some amazing chance I was the one who was available 🙂

It is seriously exciting, because she told me a little more about the course and the arrangements. I will get the train there tomorrow, they put us up in a hotel overnight in shared rooms so I’ll get to know my room mate a little bit, and then we all have breakfast together on Saturday before the course starts. We’ll cover knife skills, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but haven’t been able to find a class for, and lots of healthy, cheap, fast meals. It’s mainly aimed at students, which is ideal for me because even though my cooking has improved a huge amount since I started this blog (has it really been three years? Madness!), I am still not very confident and mostly just follow recipes and use prepared mixes or processed ingredients.

It feels as though all the details have fallen perfectly into place. My train is late enough tomorrow that the bookcase and vegetable box which I’ve ordered should both have arrived before I leave, and I’ll be back on Saturday night in plenty of time for my mum and stepdad visiting on Sunday. I’ve got no plans or commitments for the next two days other than unpacking my room and tidying up a bit – and cooking is much more exciting than that!

Of course I will tell you all about it when I get back, and hopefully I’ll remember to take some photos of what we make. Looks like this has turned out to be the summer of vegan cooking after all!

Plans for August

I find it hard to believe that the end of this summer job is approaching so fast, but on Saturday afternoon I will be on a train wending its way back towards my new flat. As I said a few posts ago, I won’t be attending the Vegan Venture course this year unless somoene drops out, so instead I have made new plans and will be attending two cooking classes over the next two months: one on cooking vegetables, and one on cooking beans and pulses. The classes are based fairly locally and they’re very reasonably-priced, which surprised me somewhat to be honest! I think they’ll both give me some of the confidence I need to start branching out into a more vegan lifestyle.

I have also located my local food bank, and will be making a trip there as soon as I’ve amassed some more non-perishable items to donate. My own financial situation is limited but reliable; I may not be hugely affluent but I can fairly confidently say that my income will exceed my expenditure for the next three years as long as I’m sensible. I won’t struggle to feed myself. Having that luxury means I have a duty to assist those who don’t: people, normally families, living precariously and reliant on the welfare support that is rapidly vanishing in this country. People whose circumstances have not been as favourable as mine. I don’t want food banks to be necessary, but for as long as they are I will support them.

Now that I’ll be living alone, and a convenient Food Bank box will no longer appear in my kitchen at the end of each academic term for left-over tins and unopened packets, I need to make a bit more effort but reading Jack Monroe’s blog post today reminded me to take the first step of that effort and find my nearest drop-off point. This time next week, I’ll take the second step and double up on my weekly shop. I might even set myself a goal: buy two of everything for the price of one, simply by swapping out branded products for the value range. Living below the line showed me that there’s no need to pay twice as much for the same product.

That being said, another thing I’m planning to do next week is visit a local health food shop which has recently started doing weekly deliveries of fruit and veg boxes. If the quality seems good and the quantity is right, I will sign myself up for a weekly box. It might not be the cheapest way to buy produce, but the reality is that I simply don’t bother buying as much fruit and veg as I should. Having it arrive at my door each week will, in combination with my newly-acquired vegetable cooking skills after next week’s class, hopefully spur me into actually cooking and eating the things!

Vegetable Risotto with Chickpeas

Although the food I’m eating this month is pretty consistently good, I’ve not come across anything particularly exciting. Until last night, when I dithered between the creamy pasta, the vegetarian hot pot and the vegetable risotto before finally plumping for the latter. It had chickpeas in it! I’d never even considered adding chickpeas to a risotto but it was so good. I’m adding it to my list of recipes to try (although I’ll have to improvise, since I have no idea how it was cooked or indeed what else was in it) and making a mental note to do more with chickpeas.

I’m considering re-introducing the In the Spotlight series which I started many moons ago and ditched out of boredom. Perhaps chickpeas will be one of the first stars! Just a couple more weeks before I’m back in my own kitchen cooking up a storm.

August will be Delicious

One of the things that has kept me going through the dullness of exams (especially now that the garden outside my window is full of people who have finished and are sunbathing, picnicking, reading and laughing in the sunshine) is the thought of a full six weeks of freedom before I start my next degree. My main plan for that freedom? Cooking.

Today I bought myself a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen. My mum certainly has a copy already, and  I think there’s one lurking on the shelves of my dad and Gill’s house, so I have flicked through it in the past. The recipes I’ve seen are somewhat alien to me, but that’s part of the point. I want to try out new things, to discover what works and what doesn’t, and to have the wonderful introduction to that book as an inspiration and a reminder.

I’ve also discovered a wholefood shop nearish to my new flat which delivers small organic fruit and veg boxes for a very reasonable price. This is something I’ve wanted to sign up to for a while, but the way my meals work at the moment it hasn’t been feasible – when you cook once every two months, it’s hard to use up an entire box of vegetables before they go off. But from August, I will be living a much more cooking-friendly life, even once my course starts, especially as I won’t be taking on a mountain of evening commitments.

I’m really looking forward to trying out making my own bread, and to having all my food, utensils, implements and crockery in the same room. If I forget to get something out of the fridge, I won’t have to traipse back along the corridor through three heavy, hard-to-open doors and across my room to fetch it, and then back again through three even-harder-to-open-with-your-hands-full doors. The fridge will be right there. When I’m meal planning, my food will be in a cupboard in the same room as me – I won’t have to try and remember what I’ve got, or trek to the kitchen to check. It’s not exactly far, but it’s a hassle. It will be nice to have that convenience.

I head off to collect the keys to the flat tomorrow, and I’ll be there for a few days. My original meal plan spiralled off a little this week as I had a fairly unpleasant IBS flareup which drove me to a not particularly sympathetic GP who gave me a prescription for co-codamol and told me to suck it up, the NHS can’t help. So the planned curry was scrapped as being too risky, and the spaghetti bolognese was kicked to the curb when I realised I didn’t have any tomatoes. Instead I had reheated pie – once with vegetables, once straight out of the microwavable tub. There is still a lot of pie in my freezer.

The plan for the weekend, however, remains the same: mushroom risotto tomorrow (I bought a 1kg vaccuum pack bag of risotto rice, I’m not quite sure how to open it without causing a volcanic explosion of rice) and pasta bake on Sunday, or possibly the other way round depending whether or not I can face going out to buy a saucepan and some mushrooms after a three hour exam followed by a three hour train journey. Monday will almost certainly be take-away pizza, because a) it’s easy and b) it’s tasty and c) I couldn’t think of any other meal ideas that wouldn’t require me to buy more food than I can use up on this trip.