Vegan Star Wars – the animal rights messages in The Last Jedi

Warning: Contains spoilers!

There a couple of strong animal rights messages in Star Wars: The Last Jedi – this is in addition to the new Viva ad being shown before the showing I attended.

Luke Skywalk shoving a beaker into the breasts of a dinosaur-like creature and gulping down its milk had many in the audience gasping. It’s not a huge leap to realise that this is the reality of milk – one species, stealing the breast milk of another species – milk meant for the babies of said other species.

The docile-looking creature in the Last Jedi certainly looked as if she was pregnant – and Rey reacted with distaste – as many people do when presented with the realities of the dairy industry. Animals are, of course, forcibly made pregnant in order to produce milk for us. Luke’s taking of a wild creature’s milk, directly from her mammary glands, produces a revulsion we should all feel at the taking of a mother cow’s milk directly from her udders – after all, that’s what we’re drinking – it’s just that a machine is stealing it from her.

Then we had Chewbacca coming face-to-face with a porg as he is about to tuck into what looks like a roasted porg. The cute little creatures mirror our reactions to the thought of eating dog or cat – when they are no different to cows or pigs – the latter two are certainly as intelligent as domesticated animals.

Chewie is surrounded by dozens of sad-eyes porgs as he can’t bring himself to chow down on his victim – this creature had a family and friends – it lived and is now dead. Chewie is hungry, but their eyes and reaction of the porgs convey a strong message to the audience.

Further on in the film, we have a strong liberation message in a thinly-veiled horse racing metaphor.

The fathers, are bet on in a Vegas-style setting and forced to race. These horse-like creatures are seen thundering around a greyhound stadium style track. But they are liberated by rebel heroes as a distraction – brilliant!

Again, it’s the audience reaction which is important – and their realisation that living animals are forced to race for human entertainment – while being held captive away from their friends and family.

A vegan at Christmas – Star Wars, nut roasts and mince pies

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I saw the Viva ad promoting veganism at a showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi today.

Sadly, it was followed by several supermarket ads showcase all the meat available this Christmas. For me, that sums up Christmas as a vegan. Although we are growing in number and share our stories, finds and views in vegan groups on social media, many of us will spend Christmas amongst meat-eaters.

I’ve often said that the festive period is a bad time for the animals – many millions are consigned to dinner plates – and worse…the bin when too much meat is purchased! We also have the festive fox hunts, reindeer cruelly paraded in a foreign climate, unwanted puppies dumped and wildlife left to freeze to death.

However, there are many positives to being a vegan at Christmas too. The local animal sanctuaries, for instance, often receive generous donations at this time of year (donate to Brook Farm sanctuary at http://www.bfas.org.uk/ or Hillside at http://www.hillside.org.uk/ in the UK). Plus, we have Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/ ) to look forward to and there are more and more vegan options to make your Christmas feast delicious as well as compassionate.

I usually buy a Vegusto roast for my Christmas lunch (https://vegusto.co.uk/) They are natural, vegan and soya-free. You do pay a little more than some other roasts, but I think they’re worth it – and great for cold cuts. Being a mushroom addict, I’ve gone for the Porcini Mushroom Roast. They do a great starter pack too – which is a fantastic introduction to their range of fake meats and cheeses.

I have had Tofurkey before too – this seems to be the favoured “meat” of choice for many – and I can’t blame them. It’s available at your local Holland and Barrett and many other health food shops. Again, it seems expensive – but you can feed a family from one roast. The outer layer can get a little tough when it’s roasted, but, other than that, it’s very tasty.

I’ve also tried the Cheatin’ Celebration Roast – also available for Holland and Barrett or http://www.vbitesfoods.com I had this a number of times so you can tell I enjoyed it! It comes with vegan sausages wrapped in vegan bacon – so you get a proper Christmas feeling from it – the roast itself is already sliced too – an added bonus! It comes with gravy too. Of course, you can buy nut roasts in many places, including Tesco – https://myvegansupermarket.co.uk/product/tesco-festive-nut-roast-mulled-wine-cranberry-480g/ – or make your own – there are many recipes online, and people have their own takes on this classic too.

There are many posts in vegan groups about finding vegan-friendly cakes and puddings over Christmas – and specialist websites often stock them – but I got my mince pies from Iceland and my Christmas pudding from B&M. It’s often a case of just looking through the ingredients – something vegans have become very good at over the years. As I get older, I’m finding I have to keep my glasses on while I shop so I can read the ingredient small print of products!

Many supermarkets now stock vegan custard and single cream and Sainsbury’s now stock a vegan Whipped Cream in a spray can – and, again, you can buy it in a can or carton at many health food shops anyway – even Amazon stock it! I must give Costa’s vegan-friendly Christmas cake slices the thumbs-up too – well worth a try if you’re popping in for a coffee over Christmas.

Linda McCartney now produces mini-sausage rolls and “chipolata-style” sausages for that Christmas tea – and you may have seen the posts about the Violife cheese platter available at Sainsbury’s.

There are festive selection boxes available everywhere – I saw a vegan one in Morrisons yesterday – or you could splash out and go for a box of Booja-booja – very nice for indulgent vegans.

The point is, there are so many vegan products now available, it’s impossible to cover them all in one blog. I, personally, love my traditional veg – the best festive products to consume on a budget. I fry my sprouts – chop them up tiny, fry with diced onion, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper for about three minutes – they are tasty and still have a nice crunch to them for 30 minutes also works well.

It’s easy to get downhearted by the obvious contradiction in celebrating through what vegans see as death and destruction of animals. But, just by showing off the vegan alternatives you are opening people’s minds to the possibility of another way of marking the occasion. We can buy ethical presents, eat ethical foods and drink ethical drinks – but we don’t have to spend a fortune in doing so.

For me, it’s good to remember that Christmas doesn’t have to be extravagant, the DIY experience brings joy to the cooking and present-making process and strips away some of the stress – after all, Christmas is supposed to be merry for everybody – whatever the species.

As for the film, well Star Wars has been a festive treat for many of us over the past couple of years – and this one has several vegan undertones!

 

A vegan meal out at Wagamama – food review

Wagamama’s new vegan menu has got the online plant-based community excited – so Peterborough’s Vegetarian and Vegan group decided to hold one of its social nights at the local branch to see what all the fuss is about. I thought it’d be rude not to review my meal for the lovely vegan community out there.

I went for the kare burosu for my main. At £10.95 it was actually a substantial and very filling dish (it actually came in a bowl). The mushrooms interacted with the vegetable broth to produce a strong, rustic taste – mushrooms are my favourite meat substitute, so this was a definite thumbs-up from me. The wooden ladle provided to eat it with added to the rustic feel too.

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The dish had a strong chilli kick – another plus in my book – which didn’t overpower the other flavours but complimented them perfectly. The soft tofu was delicious addition – and it was cooked just right. Tofu is a very hard ingredient to get right – Wagamama has succeeded here.

Wagamama didn’t skimp on the veg or the herbs in the meal either – and the udon noodles were divine – they are certainly my favourite noodles – thick and substantial. There was also plenty of fresh coriander to garnish the bowl.

I complimented my main with a side of yasai steamed gyoza – basically vegetable dumplings with a balsamic dip. They’re divine.

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I’ve always been a huge dumpling fan, and these hold a perfect selection of vegetables the balsamic sauce is just the perfect compliment. A hint of chilli finished it off perfectly.

I also tried the wok fried greens and the broccoli and bok choi were delicious – stir-fried in garlic and soy sauce – they had just the right amount of crunch. I like broccoli cooked in soy sauce anyway, and this just reinforced the opinion of my taste-buds.

The edamame with salt side dish also gets a thumbs-up – it certainly had a kick to it. The salt definitely enhanced the beans’ natural flavour.

I had to try a dessert to finish off the evening – it’s vegan law. We had a choice of two sorbets and I went for the pink guava with passion fruit one – very nice it was too. I love a strong fruit flavour and this definitely didn’t disappoint in that department.

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I chose a Kansho craft beer to wash down my food and I’m glad I did. The growth in the craft beer market is good news for vegans as we can actually drink a lot of them – and as most are made by independent breweries they score high on the ethical scale too.

This one had a pleasant zesty taste and looked like Irn Bru. It was light and, again, I enjoyed it very much.

You can check out Wagamama’s full vegan menu online – https://www.wagamama.com/our-menu/vegan

I have tried the yasai yaki soba before – I had that with rice noodles. I’m a mushroom fiend, so I pretty much go for anything with mushrooms and dish also impressed me. It’s not as substantial as the kare burosu but is a bit cheaper. It’s also less spicy – if you have a more delicate palate.

Wagamama must be commended for offering such a comprehensive vegan menu. The staff were also very friendly and helpful. The layout of the Peterborough restaurant is very welcoming. It’s well lit, unfussy and spacious. Wagamama also offers takeaway and delivery services.

An extremely pleasant evening.

 

Simple vegan mac cheese recipes that will stop you missing dairy

“But cheese” is something I hear more than “but bacon” if I’m honest.

And I have to admit, I am a huge pasta fan, and vegan macaroni ‘cheese’ is one of my favourite dishes.

There are numerous recipes for making this stodgy delight, and, I have found a recipe I like, so I stick with that. I am going to share that, and a previous recipe, one I revert back to every now and again – because it has a chilli hit, and I like chilli hits.

You can even buy some vegan “cheese” sauces now (this one is pretty good – https://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/7866/cheese-sauce ), and they work well – just pour over the pasta – you can do cauliflower “cheese” in the same way – by just replacing the pasta with the cauliflower.

I do like to sprinkle paprika on top of the mac ‘cheese’ or cauliflower ‘cheese’ when I’m done – and you can crisp it up under the grill if you so wish. Either way, I think it is the perfect winter comfort food.

Anyway, this recipe was passed onto me on Facebook a long time ago, so I’ve no idea where it originated:

 

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Ingredients

  • A pan load of pasta  – around 250g
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 teacup of diced carrot
  • Approx 25 cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil (vegetable will do – but don’t use too much either way)
  • Salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ small onion
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Tomato – sliced (optional)

 

Method

Cook the pasta

Cut up the potatoes and cook with the carrots

Dice the onion and garlic

Blend the cashew nuts

Add the cooked potatoes and carrots and gradually blend into the nuts

Add oil, onion, garlic, salt and lemon juice

Blend again.

Add a little water, if necessary.

Blend again.

Mix the “cheese” with the pasta and either serve or pop in the oven or under the grill to brown for 10 to 20 minutes. You can sprinkle with paprika and pop sliced tomatoes on top before putting in the oven if you wish.

Serve. This is really nice with ketchup too.

 

The second one comes from a Peta booklet I received. It’s based on nutritional yeast – which people either love or hate – but which does have a cheesy taste and is loaded with vitamins.

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg macaroni (any pasta will do)
  • 125g soya marg
  • 100g flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 50ml oil
  • 75g nutritional yeast flakes
  • 125g broccoli florets – steamed
  • 40g diced green chilis

Serves 4

 

Method

Cook the pasta (maybe use the water as the boiling water part).

Melt the marg in a saucepan on a low heat and whisk in the flour – whisk until smooth and bubbling.

Stir in the boiling water.

Add salt, soy sauce, garlic and turmeric.

Cook until sauce thickens.

Whip in the oil and nutritional yeast flakes.

Mix sauce with pasta and put in an oven-proof dish.

Mix in broccoli and chilis.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350F/180C

 

The latter one is a bit fat-heavy but more savoury – the sauce isn’t at all creamy like the first one either – it all depends on what you’re in the mood for that day.

If you have any alternative recipes, please post them in the comments – I love trying out new vegan tastes.

Vegan pop-up kitchen with punk ethics

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BBQ Sticky Ribs from Resist!

Resist! Vegan Kitchen feeds street food to hungry gig-goers and those attending special events in the UK.

Based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and run by Gareth, the kitchen makes everything from scratch – including the seitan – which forms the basis for many of the dishes. I love the idea of pop-ups and independent vegan businesses – especially ones that adhere to the DIY ethic of punk – something that has come to mean a lot to me over the years. But I also love the fact that people are spreading the vegan message by showing others how great the food does taste. So, I took the opportunity to ask Gareth to tell us more about Resist:

“Resist! started after I left The Scary Clown Presents (a punk collective based in Peterborough which promotes local gigs), we’d done Seitan’s Garden vegan barbecues at some of the SCP gigs and served food for all the charity events we organised with that. After leaving, I wanted to continue doing food and music in some form but leave Seitan’s Garden behind as that was SCP. I came up with Resist! Vegan Kitchen, where we’d do vegan food alongside really good intimate gigs with incredible touring artists. We want to support independent venues and collectives in Peterborough. We’re anti-fascist, pro-feminist, animal friendly, and want to promote that. That’s very important to us. We’re for the animals. Currently we are a pop-up kitchen doing takeovers across Peterborough, but also available for events, functions or gigs.

“At the moment we’re doing outside winter barbecues for the Battle Lines art events at The Ostrich pub, in Peterborough, this is more street food orientated I guess, so we’re doing donner kebabs, sticky BBQ ribs, slow pulled Jackfruit, burgers and that kind of thing. We’re hoping to do a sit-down menu event soon to showcase the full range of what we do. We love challenges, and if there is something people ‘miss’ since going vegan, or that helps them to go vegan they can let us know. If we can create something that tastes and looks similar and nothing died in the process then we’re winning.

“Battle Lines at The Ostrich is a brilliant event. The first event had a very ‘omni’ crowd, so we created a menu that was for everyone and would work there. It sold out within an hour. The latest Battle Lines had more vegans show up (and vegan discussions going on), which was a really great thing to see, it’s one of the best nights in Peterborough at the moment: Independent, creative, and with vegan grub to boot.”

Jackfruit & salad
Pulled Jackfruit from Resist!

Resist! food reviewed

I went along to the latest Battle Lines event and tried what Resist! had on offer. Here’s my short review:

The donner kebabs were so packed with good stuff, they were hard to get my big mouth around them.

Being vegan, I totally enjoyed the abundance of salad – and I’ve always been a huge fan of onion anyway. Adding the available mint sauce and a splash of chilli sauce certainly brought out the flavours.

Seitan – when prepared correctly – is a great “meat” of choice for a vegan kebab. Resist! Kitchen slice the “meat” thinly and it has a chewy, but not too soft texture. It’s great at working with the other flavours in the salad and, in particular, the sauce.

It is also telling that the naan bread used to wrap it didn’t dominate on the flavour front, but added enough bulk to fill your belly during a night out.

The Sticky Ribs are certainly very sticky. Time has obviously been spent on the texture of the seitan, which is pretty much perfect. They are chewy, but not overly so, and they’re not too soft. The sticky, barbecue-style sauce is sweet, but not too sweet with a spicy hit that doesn’t overpower the sweetness – but is enough to keep it in the realms of an overtly savoury offering. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a sticky barbecue dish.

I’ve tried Gareth’s Pulled Jackfruit before, and it’s a dish that delights every time – in fact, I make pulled jackfruit at home, but it’s never quite up to the standards set by Resist! Vegan Kitchen. Jackfruit absorbs flavours and takes in all the spices used in its preparation. I have no clue what pulled pork tastes like, but I’m told that pulled jackfruit is indistinguishable from it – just 100 per cent natural and cruelty-free.

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Meringue from Resist!

Shirts for sale

T-shirt

Dan from the band Ducking Punches (vegan artist) has designed the T-shirts for Gareth, and these are for sale at Resist! events.

 

You can contact Gareth at https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/

Email: Resistvegankitchen@gmail.com

Instagram: @resistvegankitchen

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A film more important than Earthlings

Land of Hope and Glory is described as the “UK Earthlings”.

It basically consists of undercover film shot in UK farms and slaughterhouses.

It’s harrowing, it’s hard to watch, it’s heartbreaking and shocking. It is also a film all vegans in the UK should watch.

Why?

Well, it’s free to view online – either from the website at the bottom of this article, or on Youtube.

The film is about 50 minutes long.

But mainly because the facts are laid bare. It’s a stark reminder of what is happening every single day of the year. Plus, everything you need to know to form a solid argument while debating with others is there.

These facts are also printed out on the website – as are links to where the footage came from.

So, if Earthlings already exists, why make this?

That too is answered on the website. The makers – Surge (surgeactivist.com – the group behind the Official Animal Rights March) said that people were saying “that doesn’t happen in our country” in response to Earthlings. This film proves it does.

I, personally, think that this film should now replace Earthlings in UK “experiences” as it’s more start, more relevant and will resonate with people on a deeper level in this country – this is their bacon, pork, eggs and milk.

Yes, eggs and milk. Make no mistake, this is a vegan film, not a vegetarian film – footage of the eggs and dairy industries are also laid bare.

It also dispels the myth that halal slaughter is somehow different to traditional methods of slaughter – stunning often does not work, and animals are still conscious when they have their throats slit.

The documentary is split into chapter by species – pigs, cows, sheep and birds. It does focus on farming and the use of animals for food – but there are other films available that tackle subjects such as animal experimentation and hunting.

There is a link on the website to a short film on fish.

Despite the fact this film was released earlier this year, it seems to be getting very little publicity among vegan groups on social media. That is the main reason I have decided to write this blog.

It is an important film. It’s modern, it shows what is happening on farms and in slaughterhouses here in the UK and it does not shy away from graphic, hard-hitting scenes.

In other words, it is vital ammunition in an activist’s arsenal.

It doesn’t go into the health benefits of a vegan diet (again that is discussed in other documentaries) and it would be nice to see a farmer try and defend what they do in a film such as this. I may think it’s indefensible, but I like to see a little balance just so the charge of “vegan propaganda” can be discounted.

I also think the fact the film lacks star appeal may put some people off – as does the fact that Earthlings is seen as THE animal rights film – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other movies! There is certainly room for this – I cannot reiterate enough how relevant it is to the UK! It is notoriously difficult to obtain footage from inside slaughterhouses and farms, so this really needs to be seen by everyone:

By vegans to remind them of what goes on and to arm them with the facts.

By non-vegans to show them the suffering behind their diets.

See the film at https://www.landofhopeandglory.org/

 

 

Gosh, these vegan sausages are natural

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Gosh Naturally Fee-From 6 Sweet Potato and Black Bean Sausages reviewed

One look at the ingredients tells you these are jam-packed with natural goodness. Although, reading the ingredients, or, indeed, the cooking instructions, is a challenge in itself. The horrible white on green print means that less than perfect eyes, or less than perfect lighting, renders the back of the packaging illegible.

The big plus, however, apart from the natural goodness, is the fact that this product is both gluten and soya-free – in other words, they are suitable for almost anyone – which is great news.

Now, the name might imply blandness – I have to say that this is deceptive. Tucked away at the end of the ingredients list is two words that completely annihilates all thoughts of blandness – and also disperses any taste of sweet potato (27 per cent of it, according to the packaging) that may have been there when the sausages were first formed!

“Just tell us the words,” I hear you scream. Well, they are chilli flakes! Two innocent words that spice things right up when it comes to sausages. In fact, the heat is the overriding taste that takes control of your taste buds with every bite.

The fact the packet neglects to mention this means you’ll either be pleasantly surprised (like me) or utterly horrified. Let’s face it, not everybody likes spicy food, so the fact the box says “with a hint of lime”, rather than “with a kick of chilli” is a bit perplexing to me – especially as I failed to detect the “hint of lime”.

However, I could taste the black beans (25 per cent of the ingredients) – something which was a huge plus for me – I’m a big fan of beans, and sausages and beans are, of course, natural bed fellows.

They sausages are very dry, so a brush with oil before cooking is a good idea – as is covering them in gravy (especially if you wish to lessen the chilli hit), but they have a soft texture and a rusk-like taste and feel to them – again, this is a plus in my book as it makes them more sausagey (yes, I did just make that word up).

All in all, a pleasant surprise for me, but not one for those who dislike spicy food.

I got mine from Morrisons, and they are, at the time of writing, priced at £2.47 on their website – https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/product/Gosh-Sweet-Potato–Black-Bean-Sausages/389798011 – which seems more than reasonable to me.

 

Where have all the vegans come from?

The number of vegans keeps growing and growing and social media keeps uniting them.

It’s odd really – animal rights protests and protest movements are attracting a fraction of the participants these days in comparison to the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it does actually make sense.

Many new vegans are driven by celebrity culture promoted by social media – often this means people are vegan for health reasons – and the argument that veganism is a healthier diet is certainly compelling.

But there is certainly a rise in compassionate vegans – people who are vegan for animal rights reasons – and the rise in social media means that there has also been a rise in social awareness. Look at the reaction to the film Earthlings compared to the Animals Film – the latter was actually broadcast on Channel 4 during its opening week. At the time, of course, there was no social media, internet, or even mobile phones, so the Animals Film was only talked about in school playgrounds, offices and common rooms.

Yet, in many ways, the Animals Film is more important than Earthlings because it got there first and got mainstream coverage – and it includes footage of the ALF and hunt sabotage. It’s worth tracking down on e-bay.

One could argue that the huge increase in the number of vegans saves countless lives in itself – and it does. Vegans are everywhere. When I first became vegetarian, there was one brand of soya milk in my local health food shop – and it tasted like dish water.

Now, every supermarket stocks plant milk and most stock plant cheeses. Most restaurants have vegan options and veganism is talked about in the national press.

Even farmers have been complaining about plant milk being called “milk” – because they see the rise in its popularity as a threat to the declining dairy industry.

However, social media also promote laziness – anyone can share a petition, comment on a story or fire off an email – getting out and demonstrating, or doing direct action seems less, well, popular these days. That’s probably because electronic protest is so easy, or maybe it isn’t seen a socially acceptable – I’m not sure why.

The rise in veganism has, by many, been labelled a “middle class thing”. The rise in luxury foods like hummus and avocado as vegan staples hasn’t helped – the latter is over-priced and over-rated in my opinion.

The main issue I have with vegans on social media is bullying. People who are vegan for different reason, new to veganism and transitioning are often shamed, shouted down and attacked for using this or that product, liking this or that person and not boycotting this or that company – it’s a very easy way of turning someone against veganism. Gentle debate often produces better results – especially with people who are, broadly speaking, on the same side as us.

On the plus side, information sharing – such as where is good and bad to eat, where you can buy what and swapping recipes and cooking tips has never been easier – and sometimes, online friends can become real-life friends.

It is also true to say that film of animal abuse is now easier to share – you are not limited to TV as a medium and nearly everybody in the Western World can take video on their mobile phone. This means that animal abuse is very often caught on video and shared widely. The same goes for vegan messages and recipes – and definitely for vegan products – look at the Gary publicity!

So, which came first, the decent vegan food, or all the vegans? Well, firstly, there is no replacement for cooking from scratch and using natural ingredients. I, and many other vegans, eat too much processed food – because it’s available.

Supermarkets are driven by demand – and social media gives a medium to voice such demands – so, the rise in veganism can, I believe, be the reason supermarkets are catering for us.

The message is being heard and spread because it’s backed up by science, welfare concerns, health concerns and, it has to be said, the promotion from celebrities and, in particular, sports stars, as a healthy diet.

All hail the kale! Strong Root Kale & Quinoa Burger

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Both kale and quinoa have been called super foods – so this should make these burgers super super!

Well, they are quite nice. And, it’s always nice to find new vegan foods that sound pretty awesome – in a healthy way too! Although, these go perfectly with chips – should you wish to not overdo the healthy thing.

Who doesn’t love kale right? Kale crisps are the perfect homemade vegan treat – health and quick, and for immune system boosters – well there isn’t a better food on the planet.

Crumbs, vegans even wear T-shirts with Kale written on – you don’t see that with potatoes!

But let’s not underestimate Queen Quinoa! Oh no! She is a complete protein and an awesome wheat-free alternative to grains – in other words, you don’t need to feel guilty when chowing down on these burgers.

So what are they like? Well, inside they are very green – kale green in fact – surprising that!

They come in a pack of six, so they are pretty small – a strapping young (ahem) like me needs three with a meal! But, as they’re pretty healthy, I’m not complaining – and no animals have been harmed in making these burgers – I don’t emphasise that fact enough on here!

The coating lacks crunch, but adds flavour – I will happily forego crunch for flavour – and they only take 15 minutes to cook in the oven – bonus!

They taste – well, natural!

They aren’t over-seasoned – or seasoned much at all, it seems – although salt does feature on the ingredients list!

They are soft, delicately flavoured and complement most dishes – so, overall, a thumbs-up from me.

 

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Foraging for samphire

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When I was a kid there was nothing I liked more than going samphire collecting.

Now I’m older, I recognise the health benefits of samphire as well as the value of something that tastes divine, is totally free and is a joy to forage. The health benefits of getting out in the natural world are legion, and the vast skies and calming bird song of the salt marshes are simply diving, exhilarating and relaxing.

There are two types of samphire, rock samphire is much more difficult to find, in fact, as its name implies, it involves rock climbing and putting yourself at risk. Marsh samphire is much easier to collect, as long as you know how far the tide comes in, when it comes in and look out for the creeks (natural sea dykes) as you walk – they can be several feet deep and are sometimes hidden by long grass. But they can be fun to jump over – and who doesn’t enjoy getting muddy?

Samphire is famous around Lincolnshire and Norfolk – further inland some people haven’t even heard of it, let alone tasted it. For those of us in the know, it is also referred to as the asparagus of the sea. It does resemble asparagus a little, but it’s smaller and bushier. It’s a rich green sea vegetable that grows on the marshes between June and August. Go out too early and the samphire isn’t big enough to harvest, too late and it doesn’t taste as nice.

To collect it, you simply cut the stalk near the bottom, leaving the roots in the marshland. If you pull it up by the roots, not only will you kill the existing plant, but it’ll be heavier to carry once you have a bag full and it’ll be harder to wash.

To eat samphire, you simply suck it off the stalk. It has a salty taste, but this should come as no surprise considering where it is found. As long as you wash it thoroughly, you can eat it raw – it’s nice with a salad. Stir-frying is another option, lightly toss it in some olive oil – I would add some sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper – and you have a tasty side dish, snack or sandwich filling.

I usually boil it for a while (around 10 to 15 minutes – until it slides easily off the stalk and has a tender texture), then eat it hot with dairy-free margarine and new potatoes. Restaurants often serve it as an accompaniment. I always cook far too much and leave the rest in the fridge for sandwiches over the next few days. There is also the option of pickling it in vinegar to preserve it over the coming months. I, personally am not too keen on the vinegary taste this produces, but many people seem do like it – and it means you can enjoy samphire out of season.

Samphire contains virtually no fat. It has 100 calories per 100 grams and it’s rich in minerals. It contains no saturated fat or cholesterol – which is surprising when something tastes so good. There is a small amount of sodium – 0.8 milligrams in 100 grams – something that is also surprising given its salty taste. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C and contains folic acid – all of which is good news, but there’s more. It can help cleanse the liver, aid digestion, relive flatulence and improve people’s moods and alertness.

You can in fact buy your own samphire seeds now, for sowing between February and May, and even your own samphire plants, you will, of course, need light, sandy soil, but it reseeds itself and so will grow year on year. I haven’t tried to grow my own, so I don’t know if it tastes as good as the foraged stuff. You can sometimes find it for sale at fish mongers and farmers’ markets – but why pay for something you can go and get for free yourself?

And where I go to collect it, the marsh is surrounded by blackberry bushes – so there’s free pudding as well for the excited foragers.

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