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Archive for March, 2012

Vegan Lasagna

I tend to make vegan lasagna with soya mince, but it would be just as nice with beans (e.g. kidney beans) or lentils.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
3 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 chopped carrots (optional)
Tinned tomatoes
Herbs to season (e.g. oregano, basil, bay leaf)
1/2 a stock cube (veggie)
Pinch of baking soda
1 packet soya mince (I buy it from Tesco)
Lasagne sheets (Make sure they’re egg free!)
For the creamy filling:
Tofu mori-nu, firm (You can find this in some supermarkets. I tend to buy it from Chinese/Asian food supermarkets)
1 teaspoon of mustard

1) Fry the onion in olive oil, add the garlic and carrots just when the onions have begun to brown. Add tinned tomatoes, season with herbs, 1/2 stock cube, a pinch of baking soda and let it simmer.
2) In the meantime put soya mince in a large bowl and pour boiling water over it (follow the instructions on the soya mince pack). Then cover the bowl with a plate for 5 mins.
3) Next, pour the soya mince/ cooked lentils/beans in the pot with the tomato sauce and simmer.
4) Now mash the tofu in a large bowl with a fork. Add mustard, pepper, a bit of salt and herbs to season.
5) Finally assemble the lasagna- first a thin layer of tomato soya mince, then a thin layer of tofu mix, then the lasagna sheet. The lasagna sheet should be covered by the tomato mix thoroughly, or it wont cook well.
6) Stick in the oven for 20 mins, and make sure to check on it to see if its ready to eat.

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Vegan Pizza


Vegan ‘cheese’ isn’t too easy to get a hold of, particularly at a reasonable price! However, I personally enjoy pizza without cheese, and I often order it without cheese from pizza restaurants. It’s nice to make your own pizza base as it is not only tastier, but often healthier too, since it doesn’t come with preservatives (or encased with plastic…as you may have gathered I’m not a plastic fan at all; I’m particularly against single-use plastics such as straws, carrier bags etc). The dough needs 1 hour and 30 minutes to rise, so don’t start this when you’re really hungry! Alternatively, the dough can be made 1 day before – store it in a bowl with a plate covering it as a lid in the fridge.

Ingredients for the pizza base

1 cup of white bread flour (don’t use normal flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon mixed herbs (basil, oregano or whatever else you have in your kitchen)
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons of oil
2/3 cup warm water (not lukewarm)
3/4 cups of white bread flour

Toppings
Onion, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes
Tomato sauce recipe 
Garlic infused olive oil (pour out a bit of oil in a frying pan, add chopped garlic heat over low temp until the garlic is golden – not brown/black!)

1) For the base, mix the first five ingredients well in a large bowl and stir well.
2) Quickly add the oil and warm water, stirring constantly. The dough will be very wet and sticky
3) Gradually add the  3/4 cups of white bread flour, stir.
4) Next, need the dough for 5 minutes; add a bit more flour if it still feels wet and sticky.
5) Form the dough into a ball and cover with oil. Leave it in the bowl, cover with a plate and let it rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

6) Prepare your tomato sauce.
7) Fry your toppings – I’m a fan of onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers so I fry them in oil.
8) Once your dough is ready, tear it into 2 balls of dough. On a floured surface, use a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin) to shape into circles. Put the dough in the oven for 5 mins.
9) Spread the tomato sauce evenly on your pizza, sprinkle your toppings on. I also add chopped sundried tomatoes, because I love them on pizza.
10) Sprinkle your garlic infused oil over your pizza.
11) Place in the oven for 15 mins at approx 250 degrees Celsius.

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I was privileged enough to visit a landfill site last year in Cambridgeshire – I say privileged because it was extremely interesting. I always try to be mindful of what I put in the rubbish bin because by filling a landfill site we are effectively burying pollutants (rubbish) into the ground, and the less we do so of this, the better. The problem with landfills is that they always leach. Commonly, rainwater seeps through the layers of rubbish which rapidly becomes contaminated with whatever chemicals/foods etc are decomposing in the landfill. This sludge is known as leachate, and it accumulates at the bottom of the landfill pit, where it slowly seeps into the soil where it can then contaminate soil or groundwater (groundwater is water which is under the Earth’s surface; sometimes humans use it for drinking, but groundwater can also join up with freshwater bodies, such as rivers and lakes). Either way, it is a problem, because the environment is becoming polluted – whether it’s the soil that we grow our crops on, or the rivers that we swim in. In my opinion, simply dumping rubbish in a very large hole is a very primitive form of waste management – and one that probably hasn’t changed since civilization began!

I don’t think that incinerating our rubbish instead of burying is a good solution. Burning plastics releases a multitude of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Image

Above, the landfill site as viewed from the coach (we were given a tour guide). I hope this photo gives you some idea of the immensity of the landfill site – in the distance you can see a yellow rubbish lorry emptying out household rubbish. The sad thing was that one of these lorries would arrive on the site every minute. They would dump black plastic bags straight onto the top of the ‘hill’ that they were creating that is full of rubbish. As you can see, the site is littered with rubbish – it was a particularly windy day. Our tour guide told us that the workers regularly have to organise litter cleanups to collect the litter. Still, it would be impossible to collect it all- a lot of it (lightweight plastics particularly, such as plastic bags) would be blown off the site into our cities, towns and the countryside.

Above, the lining of the landfill site. The pit is lined with clay (light grey) and tyres (dark grey) – but leaching still occurs. Leaching is inevitable, despite precautions (clay & tyres).

Above, a closeup of the mounds of tyres (dark grey).

Above, a particularly striking photo of the landfill site – trucks emptying their load. If you look closely you may be able to see lightweight rubbish (paper, plastic bags), flying up into the air…

Eventually, landfill sites do fill up, as seen by the photo above (the site I visited in Cambridgeshire is expected to close within a decade). The landfill is sealed with clay, and soil is added so that grassland can grow. The grassland needs to be carefully managed, to prevent trees/bushes from growing. This is because their roots can penetrate into the rubbish of the landfill, allowing the gases that are accumulating underground to escape. Such gases include methane (a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide! Methane is emitted by rotting food. Interestingly, the UK is a world leader in capturing methane that is emitted from landfill sites and using it to generate electricity. However, after 10-15 years a landfill site will stop emitting methane since all the food has rotted away, so there’s only so much free electricity you can get from this system).

Above, a photo to show what happens to the green waste that is collected in the UK. It is dumped outdoors, where it rots to become a compost that the waste contractors can then sell.

So what is the solution to the nightmare of waste management? First and foremost, we need to look at the waste hierarchy, see diagram below.

The most favoured option is to prevent waste occurring in the first place. When it comes to plastic bags for example, they can simply be refused. Thus, by not using plastic bags, they are prevented from entering the waste stream. Alternatively, one could minimise plastic bag usage. More than often, people end up reusing their plastic bags e.g. by lining their bins with them (however, in this case you are only reusing them once, which isn’t ideal as it will end up in the landfill eventually). Alternatively, plastic bags can be recycled at specialist facilities (many major supermarkets in England collect them for recycling). Now recycling is not ideal for two reasons:

1) Recycling requires energy, and energy very often means that carbon dioxide emissions are pumped into the atmosphere (which causes global warming). Unless of course, your recycling plant is powered by solar/wind/other renewable energies.
2) Your recycling input must not be contaminated. Take the example of me putting a plastic bag in the glass recycling bin. The mixture is likely not to be sorted at the glass recycling facility (this would take too long and be costly- not to mention that having to manually sort through recycling is an unpleasant job) and as a consequence, the output of the glass recycling facility would be of poorer quality because it would be contaminated by plastic. If the contamination was particularly high, the output would not be able to be reused… and it would end up in landfill! This is why it is so important to sort your recyclables so thoroughly. That said though, it’s not an easy job because I don’t think there is enough information provided to consumers with regards to what is recyclable and what isn’t. It can all be very confusing.

Energy recovery is an interesting form of waste management which can be quite useful. For example, food waste can be sent to an anaerobic digestor (AD). An AD is a tank that contains bacteria which degrades food, and this process generates methane which can be used to generate electricity, as well as a fertilizer for crops. Once again, this must not be contaminated by other materials – the bacteria wouldn’t be able to degrade plastic, and it would end up clogging the tank.
Finally, the last resort in the waste hierarchy is disposal: burying rubbish under the ground. I think that this is a complete waste of resources – surely mankind with all of its ingenuity can efficiently use packaging so that it can be recycled or composted, so that we don’t have to pollute our precious land?

AmeyCespa MBT

http://www.ameycespa.com/east/mbt

Above is a photo of a Mechanical and Biological Treatment plant (MBT). This is a series of conveyors and expensive machinery that attempts to segregate the recyclables from rubbish. This piece of equipment cost £42 million pounds, and it is effectively in place because the citizens cannot or will not recycle properly. As a consequence their rubbish is full of recyclables that can be reused, such as glass, metals, and even some plastics.
The MBT process:
1) The black plastic bin bags are shredded at the start of the process, spilling their contents on the conveyor belts – a smelly affair!
2) Recyclables such as metals are removed from the belt by magnets, glass is removed by weight and some plastics are also removed from this process. This is the mechanical process
3) The final sludge is a mixture of paper, cardboard, lightweight plastics and food waste. Water is added to this sludge and the mixture is deposited in a giant hall, where it will decompose and reduce in volume over a period of weeks. This is the biological process. The final result is a compost that is contaminated with plastic which is then disposed of in the landfill site.

So the whole point of this £42 million worth of machinery is to recover recyclables and simultaneously to reduce the volumes of waste entering the landfill. I thought it was sad that a county had to spend so much on separating waste when it could have been done at the source i.e. in people’s homes for so much cheaper. Additionally, this process does not recover paper and cardboard (which can be recycled) and food waste (which as previously mentioned, can be placed in an AD tank). MBT plants are not particularly common due to their hefty price tag, but it is sad to think that they exist at all- think of how much money could have been saved if it didn’t need to be built in the first place!

Are you passionate about recycling? Do we need to be more mindful of what we put in our bins? Is the hassle of segregating our waste in our homes worth it in terms of money that can be saved?

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One of the things I like most about savoy cabbage is it's interesting texture...

There used to be a time when I would think of peanut butter as sweet, but lately I seem to eat it in savoury dishes, and I almost prefer it! I had my stir fry with polenta, but perhaps it is more traditionally associated with noodles or rice. A veggie stir fry can have any veg/beans that you want in it; you could also add carrots, beansprouts, tofu, celery, seaweed etc- it really is a flexible recipe! This is how I made it:

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped (or you could use an onion instead)
5-6 mushrooms, chopped
garlic, chopped (add as much as you want, I usually add 4-5 cloves)
broccoli, as much as you fancy
2 large savoy cabbage leaves, torn into approx 4cm strips (I do love savoy cabbage!)
1 large table spoon of peanut butter
1 tsp of chili sauce paste (alternatively omit if you don’t like hot food; or finely chop up a chili instead, if you don’t have paste)
1-2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce (replace with soy sauce if you don’t have any)
1/2 a cup of water

1) Fry the onions and leeks first in a large pan/pot with oil on high heat.
2) Once they have softened, add the mushrooms, garlic and broccoli, stirring constantly (you may need to add more oil if it’s sticking to the bottom).
3) Once they have softened a little add the savoy cabbage, peanut butter, chili sauce and veg oyster sauce, stir for 5 mins. (You can also throw the cooked noodles/rice in at this point)
4) Then add the water, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 10-15 mins.

N.B. For those who are allergic to peanut butter, I would recommend a curry paste from the supermarket, e.g. a thai green curry paste, or a thai red curry paste, they can be bought in jars. Always taste a bit first, as they may be quite spicy! In which case you would probably not need to add the chili sauce/chopped chili.

Enjoy! Are there any recipes that anyone out there would like me to veganize? 

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A friend of mine wrote this poem on their blog & I thought it was very good! I thought that the sentiment ‘They say life’s not fair – and with that I agree,/ but shouldn’t we make it as fair as can be?’ very much reflects what my blog is about! Check out the blog here.

If I could go back in time and “re-take” my pick,
I’d be born as a guy and not as a chick.
If I could alter my form: existence transferred,
I’d live on as a bloke and not as a bird.

It would destroy my soul and make me depressed,
to live in a world where my worth was my flesh.
To know that one day, I’d be judged and assessed,
by the shape of my legs and the size of my chest.

Some females are ordered to spend life indoors,
some sell off their bodies, though largely by force,
though some live a life, in which harm is reduced,
it’s due to the offspring and eggs they produce.

We currently live in a culture of greed,
exploiting the helpless, in absence of need.
If you tried to see things from their point of view,
you’d find out quite quickly, that they suffer too.

We’ll each be remembered for the lives we have led.
Should we treat others fairly, or harm them instead?
They say life’s not fair – and with that I agree,
but shouldn’t we make it as fair as can be?

So tell me, do you think you’ve figured it out:
what these rhyming couplets are talking about?
See, in my opinion I’d say: “It depends”,
they could speak of women, but also of hens.

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Red Lentil Mash

I love red lentils. In this recipe, they disintegrate, which makes them into a mash. Red lentils are quite small, which means they cook relatively quickly as well. Remember to soak the lentils first, in a bowl of water with a pinch of bicarbonate soda (aka baking soda) overnight. Rosemary sprigs taste good in this dish too!

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped into chunks (leave the skin on if you like them that way, I do)
1 carrot, diced (optional; if you put more in it becomes quite sweet, if you like it that way)
2 cups of red lentils
4 cups of water
Olive oil
salt

1. Fry onion in a pot until they’re golden.

2. Add the carrots and garlic to the onions and saute for a few minutes.

3. Get rid of the water that the lentils have been soaking in. Then add the lentils and the potatoes to the pot. Add the 4 cups of water to the pot. Bring to the boil. Simmer until the lentils are falling apart.

4. Salt to taste.

This can be enjoyed both hot or cold.

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Admittedly, the link between art and living ethically is a little dubious, Hence why I decided to categorise this post as ‘Random’.

I visited Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts near Piccadilly on Friday, to see David Hockney’s exhibition, entitled ‘A Bigger Picture’. You may recognise perhaps his most famous work, ‘A Bigger Splash’ below:

However, this exhibition did not have this piece of work, because all of the artwork was of landscapes. It was very popular; I had to queue outside for 20 minutes (if you do wish to visit this exhibition, I’d recommend that you visit either early in the morning, or late at night- I think the gallery closes at midnight on weekends!). Many of his landscape works were inspired by the East Yorkshire landscape, where he grew up. Some of the paintings are very large, and were created especially for the galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts. I would highly recommend this exhibition of over 150 works. I loved how brightly coloured many of his paintings were, The exhibition really lifted my spirits and made me nostalgic for the beauty of Spring and Summer!

Image

Above: Pearblossom Highway by David Hockney. This is photocollage, and the artist is experimenting with cubism. It makes the scene seem very surreal and fragmented. In real life, this piece of work was much larger, and the litter really stood out when you were standing next to the piece.

Image

Above: Winter Timber, 2009. What I love about this painting is how bright it is, even though it is depicting winter. If you click on the image above, you will see it on a larger scale. It was enormous in real life!

Above: Arrival of Spring in Woldgate. This is perhaps my favourite painting in the exhibition. It really is a celebration of spring. Click on it to see a larger image, because this small one doesn’t do it justice!

Above: David Hockney and his painting. This gives you some idea of how big it is.

Above: Salts Mill. I really liked this painting because the mill looked like a giant gold bar. It is as if the artist is idolizing the mill. On the other hand, it could be the case that the mill is profiting massively, hence is coloured gold, whereas the mill workers (who presumably live in the small, dull, matchbox terrace houses) are poor. You can also click on the image to see it larger.

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