An ordinary bloke writes about ‘Lessons you learn’
I was standing in the queue at Iceland, the frozen food store, yesterday. I was clutching a modestly-sized bag (700g) of McCain’s skin-on fries. We were having a dirty burger night and it was the last item on the shopping list. I’d already bought the Linda McCartney chunky vegan ‘meaty’ quarter pounders (from the big Tesco), 4 crusty white rolls from Brutons the bakers, a small tray of mushrooms from the Co-op, a bag of ‘washed and ready to use’, salad leaves from the small local Tesco, and a block of Violife vegan mozzarella ‘cheese’ from Beanfreaks, the health food shop.
At home already were the seasonings and additives, like a litre of rapeseed oil (from the Co-op), a large squeezy bottle of Tesco mid-range own-brand tomato ketchup, a bottle of Biona cider vinegar (with the mother – Beanfreaks), a tub of Saxa finely-ground sea-salt (small Tesco) and a jar of gorgeous home-made mayo, whizzed up from a block of silken tofu, a cup and a half of own-brand rapeseed oil, half a teaspoon of said salt, the freshly-squeezed juice of a lemon, and a couple of tablespoons of co-op brand Dijon mustard.
Anyway the point is that there was a woman behind me in the queue. She was quite young, probably late twenties, though it is difficult to be precise because she wasn’t in good shape, I mean, for example, she was quite short, just over five feet I’d say, and she was very obese, huge in fact, by any method of measuring. The trunk of her body was a large ball, like one of those orange bouncy things from the seventies that had evolved to an adult size.
She was wheezing and moaning out loud about how long she’d been waiting in the queue. I thought, at first that she was trying to garner my sympathy so that I would let her go first, but she had a large trolley full of the sort of cheap frozen stuff they sell in Iceland, like hot and spicy chicken in breadcrumbs or bags of 22 skinless pork sausages, and I had just one moderately-sized packet of skin-on fries and I had the correct money ready (£1.50), so I decided not to be chivalrous and duly ignored her.
She turned her attention to the person behind her in the queue and said: “They are a real bargain and only 50p each. I turned involuntarily to look at the conveyor belt to see what it was that was such a bargain. There were six 250 gram packets of full-fat butter making their way along the belt, at the beginning of their journey to her already engorged tummy.
I shook my head inwardly, judging her to be a sloppy, lazy, dullard, who if only she stopped eating dirty rubbish like butter, would lose weight, become much fitter and happier, and would not be metaphorically bouncing with joy just because she’d managed to contribute to her undoubtedly early death for such a bargain price.
It took a while, in fact it was tonight, more than 24 hours later, for me to realise how utterly crass and judgemental I’d been, if only in my own head, especially since I am going on for 4 stone overweight myself, and at least half the food I eat is not at all essential to my survival or good health.
So now I’m thinking :-
Nothing is worthless
Everything has a value
No one deserves disrespect
Everyone deserves respect
Everyone is unique and beautiful
Everyone hurts – it’s far better to behave in a way that ameliorates that hurt than in a way that exacerbates it
So, today’s lesson is that what you learn from teachers who don’t even know they’re teaching can sometimes be the best lessons of all.
New research has indicated that people should eat 10 portions of fruit and/or vegetables every day if they want to achieve a longer and healthier life.
I wondered what 10 portions would look like so I raided the fridge and fruit bowl and added fruit and veg until it weighed 800 grams, which, according the the NHS, is what 10 portions weigh at 80 grams each.
Prices are based on the costs of the fruit and veg from local supermarkets and greengrocers’ shops, not the cheapest places to buy, not the most expensive either.
I fancied making a pizza the other day but was fed up of those pale lacklustre crusts available from supermarkets so decided to make my own dough.
I chose wholemeal bread flour and quick yeast since that’s what was in the cupboard, made the dough and used half of it to make a pizza base, rolling it out into a large rectangle to fit the oven tray. I made a round loaf with the other half of the dough.
Unfortunately the pizza base didn’t rise and then I burnt it in the oven – probably because I’d flattened it too much with the rolling pin and cooked it too quickly.
The bread turned out lovely – and a tasty, if dense, loaf emerged. So I cut that into rounds and used them as pizza bases.
I made far too much topping, stacked it on the rounds of bread and baked it slowly until the cheezly made an attempt at melting.
Tamari-marinated taifun tofu fried in olive oil
red, green and yellow peppers
pimento stuffed green olives
birds eye chillis
white cheddar cheezly
spicy salad leaves from blaencamel farm on Riverside market
Whenever I see appeals for money or support for animal rescue charities the first thought that comes to my mind is ‘What do they feed the animals they rescue?’ I suppose in the case of naturally vegetarian animals the answer is vegetable material of some sort, but what about carnivores like cats, or omnivores like dogs?
For example, just today, on a vegan Facebook group someone issued a plea for donations to save a charity in Cwmbran, apparently if they do not get funding they may have to kill the hundred or so animals in their care since it costs £5000 a week to run the place. According to their website the list of animals they look after includes: Horses, Shetland Ponies, Sheep, Goats, Pigs, Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Ferrets, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Rat, Cats, Birds and Dogs.
Now, excuse me if I’m being daft but don’t cats eat birds and ferrets eat rabbits?
They also say on their website that one of their staff has an interest in ‘goat husbandry’, which is the keeping of goats in order to harvest their milk and meat. They are also planning a horse tack sale, which I presume is equipment used to control and abuse horses?
On the same Facebook group I recently asked the organiser of the so-called Welsh Vegan Festival, why is it that the Farplace animal rescue charity they are raising funds for keeps rescued chickens yet has included dog food containing chicken meat on their Amazon wishlist. He ignored me.
So how about this animal rescue centres – feed the rescued carnivores with the rescued birds and rabbits, and a bit of sheep, or pig, or horse-meat if you like – that way you would have a lot less animals to look after and you wouldn’t have to raise so much money to buy them food.
These are golden crisp outside and creamily soft inside.
Cut baking potatoes in half along the length so that you have two flattish halves
anoint with veg oil and sprinkle with seasalt.
Place the potato halves flat side down onto a baking tray, cut a little cross in the top bulgy bit and bung into a fairly hot oven for about an hour. Turn now and again to ensure they don’t stick and cook evenly.
When I was growing up in Llanelli we always referred to the Conservative club as ‘The Con Club’. There was no malicious intent in this, after all, in those days, the Conservatives, in Llanelli at least, were not even significant enough to be regarded as a sideshow. I have noticed that in Cardiff the Conservative clubs are referred to as ‘Cons Clubs’ and even labelled as such on their signage. I suspect this is because when you add the ‘s’ it sort of dilutes the meaning of ‘con’ which, when you strip away all the bollocks, is what all political parties, and in particular the Conservatives, are – a great big fat con.
Riverside ‘Cons’ club – open for business – hmm!
But never mind about all that – I’ve typed the word ‘Conservative’ far too many times for my mental health so I want to turn to the issue of making a decent vegan burger.
This one is pretty good :
Vegan Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers – Gluten Free
We made these last night, I forgot to write down the ingredients so I hope I haven’t forgotten anything
Makes about 6 burgers
2 or 3 cups of cooked black beans – mashed roughly
bunch of spring onions (scallions) – sliced thinly
1 chilli – chopped
4 large cloves garlic – crushed
2 tablespoons gram flour
1 tablespoon ground flax / linseed
1 dessert spoon chia seeds (optional)
1 huge mushroom – chopped finely
some liquid from the beans
rapeseed (canola) oil for frying
a bit more gram flour for coating
Mix all the ingredients adding salt, pepper and tamari according to your taste – the mixture should be firm but moist
Form into burger shapes
coat with a little gram flour each side
chill before cooking if you like
fry on a moderate heat until browned and warmed through
My first serious attempt at Rajma – a.k.a. Red Kidney Bean Curry
The basic recipe is drawn from here: – thanks to Ceri for the variations and the live tips 🙂
First the ingredients:
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed under running water
2 tbsps vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium-sized onions chopped fine
2″piece of ginger jullinned
6 cloves of garlic minced
2 large tomatoes chopped into 1″ cubes
2 fresh green chillies chopped fine
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of asafetida
Chopped coriander to garnish
Due to the aforementioned tips I added another small onion and two more tomatoes
Now the method:
Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. When they stop sizzling, add the onion and fry till soft.
Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the green chillies, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders and fry till the oil separates from the masala.
Add the red kidney beans, 3 cups of warm water, asafetida, salt to taste and cook till beans are very soft (approximately 10 minutes). (This took 30 minutes)
Mash some of the beans roughly (this thickens the gravy).
Garnish with coriander and serve with chapatis/roti/wraps
the asafoetida / hing really does make a difference when you do it right. It’s not essential but to perfect it, it’s good. You can use wraps or gluten-free wraps but proper roti is best.
the fresh coriander is pretty key too, but don’t overdo it this can ruin the balance
also don’t skip the three cups of warm water part – it takes ages to reduce but worth it, cooking it early and turning it off for about an hour before reheating slowly makes it a lot better too, it goes into a lush thick sauce,
and even though it says to rinse the beans, save the tin water and use it as part of the three cups of warm water (heated in a separate pan) – also put the hing in the water as it’s heating, also put a very very small amount of finely chopped fresh coriander in the dish as it’s coming towards the end of reducing, and the rest is used as a sort of garnish on the top, put any left over coriander in a bowl to be used by people as they see fit, and freeze any leftovers
put salt in in stages, so a bit about 5 mins into the onions cooking, a bit with the spices and a bit while it’s cooking (you can taste test while cooking to see if it needs more)
all of that, plus turning it off for a bit really helps
I also made stewed apples and Victoria plums with turmeric and vanilla soya milk custard
Custard is made with 500ml soya milk, 2 tbs cornflour, a pinch of turmeric, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla extract
I NEEDED to get a few things from the shops, so made a list.
This is it.
Just 4 items, that’s all I needed and if I was being honest then I didn’t really need the tofu because that’s what the soya beans were for (to make tofu), and I certainly didn’t need the sugar – no one ever needs that. I could have lived without the soya beans and tahini for a couple of days too.
A modest list don’t you think?
After I’d written the list and was on the way to the shops I remembered I needed bread so headed up to the deli in Pontcanna to grab some Allen’s organic.
I FANCIED a white loaf – it’s a rare treat, a good simple old-fashioned bake – makes great toast.
From Pontcanna I meandered in the general direction of Cowbridge Road East, or Cabbage Road – as the street is aptly named by MR Marc Robert Roberts of Zeuk and Chapter fame.
I WAS STRUCK by the super-abundance of brightly-coloured flowers and lush green foliage that adorned the front gardens in Pontcanna Street, Plasturton Avenue, Sneyd Street and Kings Road.
I TOOK a few pics on the way to Cabbage Road; and wrote a song in my head. More on the song in a later post. Here’s a montage of the photos:
I WENT to Home Bargains to get the sugar. I lost the plot a bit and found myself wending my way up and down the aisles, staring at the contents of the shelves, looking for that elusive ‘something’. I kept seeing the same few people doing the same as I was, stumbling around like post-consumerist zombies, trapped in a loop of comestibles and consumables until the end of time.
I WENT ON to the health shop to get the tofu, soya beans, and tahini, then realised that in my stupor I’d forgotten to get the sugar from Home Bargains, but rather than go back there, partly because of the queues at the checkout, I went on to Tesco, even though it would cost me 20p more for the same amount of the sweet stuff – and it’s bloody Tesco, but there you go – nobody’s perfect.
I WALKED back via the Chapter Arts Centre where there was a crowd in the bar watching a clownish-looking man and a woman in a yellow wig throwing each other around to a sound track of cartoon-like noises.
The aforementioned MR M R Roberts was working behind the counter.
“What’s that all about?” I asked.
“It’s art,” he said.
“I thought it was dance,” I said.
“Dance-Art,” he said, nodding wisely.
WHEN I got home I unpacked the shopping
AFTERWARDS I went to see my friend on the other side of town. For the first time in many visits I noticed he had several little buddha ornaments and versions of Bagpuss and Tigger about the place; they were poking out between houseplants, on the edge of the coffee table, that sort of thing.
WHEN I arrived he looked a bit rough.
“I’ve got the heebie-jeebies,” he said. “Can’t go out or anything.”
“Aw!” I said. “Anything I can do?”
“Nah!” he said. “It’s my own fault. I’ve been doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.”
“Ah!” I said. Have you slipped off the wagon again?”
I shook my head – it wasn’t good. He’s got a history of over-consumption of alcohol – it’s had serious consequences for his health.
“I know,” he said sheepishly. “I’m a fucking twat – an idiot.”
“I’ve been popping morphine tabs as well,” he said. “I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes, it’s the only thing that works.”
“They’re really addictive, you better watch out.”
“I know,” he said. “Three days of hell to get off that stuff.”
“Not as bad as giving up alcohol though,” he said. “When you’re as dependent as I used to be. You can’t suddenly stop drinking. It’s dangerous.”
I nodded again.
“You can die from that – I found out too late.”
I had to laugh. It took him a while to see the funny side, but he got there in the end.
“I’m starting to feel better now,” he smiled.
BEFORE I left he gave me an aloe vera leaf to squeeze on a small burn I had on my finger.
Marinate cubes or strips of tofu in tamari, garlic, chilli and ginger before frying in sesame oil until they start to brown. Add freshly chopped or sliced tomatoes and stir for a minute, adding extra tamari and/or seasoning if it floats your boat.
Pile into two slices of your favourite bread with crisp fresh local lettuce.
The bread in the photo is one of my favourites, the organic granary from Allen’s bakery in Cardiff. It’s always good, but when it’s ultra-fresh it’s dangerously good!
I’ve not been out the door today and it’s eleven pm already so it’s not likely to happen. Come to think of it I have been out the door, or doors, both back and front, but only to get the rubbish from the yard and put it out the front seeing as it’s bin day tomorrow.
It was a bit of a faff putting the bins out since it’s black bag / general waste week, and for once we’ve got a quarter bag of unrecyclable rubbish to put out. Trouble is, something’s gone rotten inside the bag because it’s probably been sitting there for a few weeks since we hardly ever have enough black-bag rubbish to put out.
Also, the top of the bag has been left open so it’s half full of stinking fetid rainwater, which could explain the smell that was hanging around the other day. When I lift the bag up, after recovering from the stench released, I notice that the water is not leaking, so I decide the best thing to do is to go out the front, find a drain, and stab a hole in the bottom of the stinking bag with a screwdriver, thus allowing the filthy water it contains to flow away as harmlessly as possible, then I will stuff the broken bag and it’s contents into another black bag, and another, until the smell is buried too deep to detect.
That’s what I did
Besides that I’ve been working most of the day on typesetting and applying the almost final edits to the WSSN book and fiddling about with the cover layout too.
While working on my next novel ‘Bums’ which will be published in the Spring of 2015, I have been distracting myself by putting together a volume of other bits and pieces, called for the Time Being.
It’s going to end up as a 200 page paperback book and will be published in late October or early November 2014.
For the Time Being is a bringing together of short stories, plays, poems, snippets and other fragments of my writing. Some of it is brand new, other pieces have been lurking in drawers for decades. Some of the work has been exhaustively edited while some is still red raw. Some of the work has already been published on this blog in one form or another, some of it emerged as I was putting the book together.
I don’t know if the book has any commercial viability – probably not, but I don’t really care – it’s primary purpose is as a distraction for me and something for me to read in my dotage – the pure essence of self-publishing if you like.
There will be more information about the book on Opening Chapter’s website when it’s available.
Home made tofu is amazing – make some today (or tomorrow, because you’re going to need to soak the beans)
Get hold of 250 grams of organic soya beans and some coagulant. A heaped teaspoon of nigari is good but you can use the juice of a lemon or even a tablespoon or two of vinegar at a push. You can of course make more by using multiples of 250 grams, but you will need a very big saucepan if you make a bigger batch.