Back in Business!

I haven’t been blogging for a while now. There are several reasons, including the fact that I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t felt particularly inspired, but the main problem with this blog has been my depressing lack of a functional camera. After all, what is the point of a food blog without photos?! My camera screen’s backlight has been broken for months, possibly even years at this point, but I’d never got round to getting it fixed or replaced.

However, this morning I got an email which made me realise I will be getting a small unexpected* windfall soon, and I decided to spend it on getting myself a new camera. We’re not talking anything fancy here; I just want to be able to see what I’m photographing and maybe zoom in a bit to show detail! However, it seems that cameras have come a long way since I bought my first, and up until now only, point and shoot – for the same amount of money that it would cost me to get the backlight fixed, I can get an entirely new camera with almost three times the zoom, more than twice as many megapixels and a larger screen. My understanding of those things is somewhat hazy but I know enough to realise that my new camera will be better than my old one ever was! Within 3-5 working days, the glory of photography will return to this blog.

This is particularly exciting because I am cooking a lot of new things these days. Last week a friend came over for dinner and I gave her the choice of vegan pizza or vegan queasdillas. She went for the quesadillas, but I whipped up a pizza anyway and stuck it in the freezer along with two more portions of pizza dough which I made using my KitchenAid for the very first time (I’m sure this is old news to the rest of the world but stand mixers are AWESOME). I’d made refried beans in advance and also improvised a guacamole recipe using whatever I had lying around (white onions, cherry tomatoes and a bit of paprika, along with the obvious avocado).

I’ve got a list as long as my arm of things I want to try, drawn from various vegan cookbooks which I’ve been trawling through looking for recipes that use ingredients I’ve heard of and result in things I’d want to eat – it is surprising how many don’t meet both these thresholds… The list includes a few different types of burger, courgette “pasta” and cauliflower “rice” which are two ways of using vegetables I’ve heard of but never tried, and a few veganised versions of my old favourite meals.

I finally took the plunge and cancelled the fruit and vegetable box delivery, because it simply wasn’t working for me. The idea of getting a week’s worth of produce delivered to my door seemed perfect, but unfortunately I never seemed to have the right ingredients for what I wanted to make, and any recipes that would use up what was in the box required a long list of things that weren’t. Added to the fact that I keep chucking stuff out because it had gone off within a day or two of it arriving, it just didn’t seem worth keeping going. I made my first ceremonial trip to Aldi last week and have rediscovered the novelty of being able to confidently plan my meals without having to desperately scrabble for a way to use up yet another head of kale.

I’m also keen to do some baking. Every so often I think “oh, I’ll make muffins this week!” or ponder the idea of banana bread for breakfast, only to realise that I don’t have the right tins or trays. Somehow I seem to have accepted the absence of a muffin tray from my kitchen cupboards as being a simple fact of life, a scientific truth over which I have no control. It is not so! I have the power to BUY a muffin tray, and even maybe some muffin cases! Muffins will very soon be within my reach.

So that’s a quickish update on what will be coming up on Faint with Hunger over the next few weeks. Hopefully this will be the last unillustrated post for a very long time!

 

 

* When I say windfall, what I actually mean is three months’ unpaid wages that I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t getting. I am appallingly bad at keeping track of my finances – if I don’t seem to have much money, I just become even more frugal, and never stop to think “wait a minute, when was the last time I actually got paid for X job?”. I’m a little less slapdash in my role as treasurer for the local community shop, fortunately!

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Spontaneous Advance Cooking Bonanza

Until next month, I have Fridays off from uni as a study day. Wednesdays are a study day as well, and I have been going into the university library on Wednesdays but because I am now working some Saturday mornings in the local shop and getting up either for church or running on Sundays, I’ve given myself Fridays as a home study day. Or a home cooking day…

Today, I was expecting my regular delivery of fruit and veg but it doesn’t seem to have arrived. I suspect that my request to increase my order to weekly might have slipped through the net, which may be a good thing – I’d used almost none of the vegetables from last week and not a great deal of the fruit. Mostly, this is because I’ve been staying in the library too late and then rushing home and cooking pasta and some kind of quick topping for dinner. Continue reading

The arrival of the fruit and veg box!

I set my alarm early this morning to make sure that I was up and dressed in good time for my fruit and vegetable delivery. Despite managing to nod off again for an hour longer than planned, I was still ready when I got the call: “I’m outside your building!”. (Note to self: fix doorbell.)

The box was promisingly large, and I was excited about looking inside. As soon as I got upstairs I opened it and goodness me it was full of delicious things!

The first glimpse

The first glimpse

Continue reading

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!

National Vegetarian Week 2013 – Jerry’s Curry

Happy National Vegetarian Week! This year I’m setting myself the challenge of cooking seven new recipes, with a particular focus on vegan dishes. Each day I will post a photo, a summary of the recipe and my verdict on whether the meal will make its way into my repertoire.

Jerry's Curry with potatoes, tomatoes, peas and mushrooms

Colourful and delicious!

Today’s recipe is Jerry’s Curry, also from the Vegetarian Society’s Surprisingly Simple recipes, although I tweaked it – I didn’t feel that it had enough vegetables, so I doubled the quantity of peas and added about 100g of mushrooms, and some cherry tomatoes which were sitting in my fridge about to go out of date. However, I didn’t add any tomato puree, apple or spinach, because I didn’t have any. Oddly the photo on the recipe page shows tomatoes (or pepper) and red onion, which weren’t included in the list of ingredients. I took this as a sign that I should adapt to suit my tastes – which indeed should be a line included on every recipe.

Oh, my goodness. This curry was amazing. It was not only the best curry I have ever made, I think it might well be the best curry I have ever eaten. I’ll caveat that with the warning that I have only eaten curry a few times (and that my tastes are quite inauthentic and mild), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this recipe if you like your curry hot – just add spice as you see fit. My curry powder is out of date, which might well have impacted the strength of the flavour too.

The cooking process took me longer than the recipe said, which I was expecting. In total I spent almost an hour in the kitchen, which isn’t too bad. Thanks to the “intelligent” design of my uni halls kitchen, I had to get up every seven minutes to press a button to stop the stove turning itself off, so I just took along a magazine to read while the curry simmered.

I’ll definitely be making this again, probably with more or different vegetables and some more spice – I have some chilli powder or some paprika which might add a bit of a zing. Next time I’ll serve it with rice, but I used up the last of my rice a few weeks ago. I also forgot until I’d already started eating that I had some poppadums in the cupboard; they would have been a nice side but never mind.

One last point to note – this recipe is vegan, but my execution of it turned out not to be, as I discovered that the Bouillon powder I used for vegetable stock contains lactose. If you have another type of vegetable stock, then it would be vegan. Once this tub is used up I shall get some vegan stock powder, because it is silly to ruin a vegan recipe with something so minor!