I feel like a broken record, but it’s been another busy week at work. Aside from that, I was mainly working on my Sinister Catdigan again. I forgot to take a photo of the wrong side last week. So pleased with those floats! I don’t trap them because it ruins the look of the design when you’re using high contrast colours.
I finished the yoke and grafted it to the body and sleeves. The grafting took 3-4 hours and used a lot of yarn. I thought I’d left a long enough section of wool (about three armspans) but I had to splice on some more.
I couldn’t wait to try it on. I’m pretty happy with the fit. I never button my cardigans so the width is fine. I’m a little surprised at how long it’s looking, but the neckline may bring it up a bit.
I spent over an hour picking up the stitches from the provisional cast on, and an evening researching knitting patterns for my neck decreases. I really can’t be bothered to try and calculate the decreases myself. I’m happy to pay someone who has already done it!
On Tuesday I made vegan cannelloni. It didn’t look that stunning but it tasted amazing- even if it took well over an hour longer than suggested in the recipe.
I also made a cake using some cheap rhubarb I got in Waitrose. It was delicious!
And I made french toast using my sourdough bread from last week. The bread was actually very tasty even if it looked a bit flat and the french toast livened it up perfectly.
Finally, I made some vegan mozzarella using School Night Vegan’s recipe. Yes I am obsessed with him. At first I was put off by all the speciality ingredients required for a lot of his recipes, but they really do make a difference to the texture. I now own psyllium husks, agar powder, potato and tapioca starch. Just as well I am not spending any money eating out at the moment!
If the sense of relief I felt on Monday was anything to go by, I made the correct decision in moving out of my place in London. I had two busy weekends of sorting and packing things, but all that work should make it fairly straightforward for me to move in once I find my next place, which I’m hoping to buy rather than rent.
I did have a little break from packing to darn one of my dishcloths before putting it into storage.
I also marked my compost bin in the hope that a new tenant will keep using it.
A lot of craft time has been dedicated to my Oran do Chaora/Sinister Catdigan again this week. I’ve finished both sleeves and joined them into the body, which has now been set aside.
I mentioned last week that I’d started doing the maths for the colourwork yoke. Well, unfortunately I made a really stupid error with that calculation that resulted in me spending about four hours reducing the body section by one stitch.
Fortunately I re-checked my sums before I did anything too major and realised my mistake. I’ve now picked that stitch back up and the numbers on my Oran do Chaora body and sleeves should match the numbers on the finished Sinister Catdigan yoke.
I’ve done the crochet provisional cast on for the yoke and the first row of cats has emerged! It’s quite hard work managing the tension with long floats and a slippery yarn but I think it’s going okay so far.
It’s funny that I was looking forward to knitting the cats and it’s only now that I’m recalling how laborious this kind of knitting can be. Working the fair isle requires quite a lot of attention. It’s very easy to make errors and I’ve had to do more than my share of undoing. But it is fun to see the cats emerge row by row- in fact it’s pretty addictive.
I’m already starting to think about how I will do the decreases for the shoulder section. I’m not that fond of the neckline of SC and I think it will look odd to do a saddle shoulder above the fair isle section. Some more planning and maths is in order next week I think.
I fed my sourdough starter again in preparation for making my first loaf. I looked at some recipes and started to get a bit stressed because of all the equipment needed. I don’t have a banneton, baking stone or a dutch oven.
The loaf is a little disappointing. I used a pan as a lid following some advice online and I think it actually restricted her growth. Now I’m contemplating investing in a Dutch oven.
Another week where I haven’t had that much craft time. I’m moving out of my place in London for the time being. It just doesn’t make sense to pay rent when I don’t need to be here for work and I can’t even enjoy the city.
Here I am enjoying my local area. I was out collecting food from Island Ting Kitchen, a small black-owned vegan business near me. One action I’ve been taking is supporting Black businesses. I’m enjoying it! I highly recommend ITK if you’re in west London.
I also ordered some mind-blowing vegan doughnuts from Tastopia. Supporting these businesses feels like such a win-win. They get to do something they’ve chosen and I get to enjoy delicious food. I’ve been so happy to see how many black-owned vegan businesses there are in particular. The vegan community is pretty whitewashed. I will support these businesses as much as I can. I really hope they thrive.
Last Sunday I ripped out the second sleeve of my Sinister Catdigan/Oran do Chaora. Not only was the ribbing visibly larger, I had somehow done way more rows on the second sleeve than the first and it looked shit. Since the tail on my cast on was barely long enough, I just started over. I used this tubular cast on (twisted the knits on the second foundation row). I am working the ribbing on a 3mm needle. I don’t know why I did the number of rows of ribbing that I did on the first sleeve. It bears no resemblance to the pattern. Possibly I just got bored of doing the twisted rib. Either way, I will count the number of rows properly so I can match the second sleeve.
I actually had to rip out some of the sleeve a second time because they still weren’t even. I’m happy enough with how the two sleeves are looking now (no photo soz).
Predictably, as soon as I wrote about my struggles with my starter last week, my efforts to get it going bore fruit. The starter finally started to double in volume and I successfully made a crumpet!
Although you can cook and eat the excess unfed starter before it matures, I wouldn’t recommend it. Whatever you make will be very gummy. While I ate it for several days with no ill effects, I have a pretty strong stomach. There was a world of difference in my pikelet in the 24 hours before the starter began doubling and after. It actually smelled of bread while it was cooking. I couldn’t see anyone online addressing this issue so I hope my experience helps someone.
Creating the starter was a bit of a journey of self-discovery. Things I was pleased to be reminded of: I’m scientifically minded. I did my research and that helped me to figure out why the starter wasn’t rising. I am learning to be patient. I didn’t just throw it away when it didn’t go to plan.
Things I still find difficult: not being perfect. In the picture above, you can’t really see how much of a difference there was between the crumpets I made a week apart. That’s because I engineered the top photo to look better than it was by tearing the crumpet rather than biting it. The former made it look like it had a decent crumb structure while the latter revealed it for the mess it was.
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. I don’t think I’d be where I am in life without my relentless striving for better. I know that it’s impossible to be perfect, I know it’s irrational, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to be perfect. Perfectionism makes me pick holes in everything I do, and struggle to acknowledge my achievements and strengths. It makes me feel like a failure. It makes me feel like I can never be good enough, and that’s really hard. I’ve been working for a long time on being less hard on myself, and I think I’m getting better but it’s still a struggle.
I didn’t have time to try making a loaf during the week, which is a bit sad after all my work making the starter. I actually have more ideas for the excess than the starter itself. I’m dying to try focaccia and I’ve seen an amazing cracker recipe on Instagram. I’m a little apprehensive about making a proper loaf- it all seems to technical! Although I am looking forward to being that person who drops words like levain and autolyse into everyday conversation.
My mind is blown that this has been going on for twelve weeks now. This week I finally cast on the second sleeve for my Sinister Catdigan, I’ve been reminded that I need to take much better notes. I always assume that I will remember everything and that is simply not the way my brain works. I can’t remember whether I knit the ribbing on a smaller needle to the stocking portions of the other sleeve and body. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things but I’d rather the two sleeves be identical if possible. This will be the project I work on during calls.
Inspired by last week’s crafternoon rainbows, I made a birthday card for one of the girls.
I sent it with Joy mitts I’d made for her. Double rainbow FTW. I blocked them using my sock blockers since I don’t have my matts here. I tried to shrink the larger glove using some boiling water but that didn’t seem to have any impact. It was easier to block the smaller glove fairly aggressively. They’re still not exactly the same size but hey ho. Predictably I failed to take a photo before wrapping them up (in reused paper of course!) and sending them off.
I’ve sewn in all the ends on one of my Somewhere socks and a few on the second. This is a task I’m trying to do while listening to an audiobook (currently The Hate U Give, which is incredibly emotional to listen to at the moment).
Work was bananas this week so I’m relieved that I was able to have a quieter day on Friday. I bought everything to have a go at School Night Vegan’s sausage rolls but didn’t have a chance to make them until Friday. They were so good! And didn’t contain too many obscure ingredients. I’ll definitely make these again.
My sourdough starter has stalled big time. Apparently this is not uncommon if the comments on a post about troubleshooting are anything to go by.
I think I may have accidentally over-fed the starter at times (feeding 100g+100g rather than 50g+50g) because the weight was way off. This may have been part of the problem since I wasn’t feeding it enough- and indeed it started smelling of acetone, which is apparently a sign that it’s hungry. I felt weird discarding so much of it so I compromised and now discard and feed 150g total. I’ve been eating some of the discard in the mornings because I hate throwing away all that flour. I make a kind of freeform pikelet, which is ok if a little gummy, like the crumpets I attempted last week.
I need to call it something other than ‘discard’ because that makes it sound gross. I just read someone calling it excess unfed starter so I’m going to try that.
I’m also keeping the jar in a different room because the kitchen is quite cold. I actually put it in my bed during the day. All in all I’m frustrated with the starter. I was led to believe that it was pretty foolproof so I feel like an idiot not being able to mix flour and water properly. I’d actually planned a whole meal around a sourdough focaccia which is far from possible at this point. Oh, the hubris.
I recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in Southern Africa. I entered by and left from Johannesburg and saw snippets of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday, it was painful at times to see the levels of plastic waste produced, both on the part of the locals and the tourists. Obviously travel, especially flying, sucks for the environment so I am a complete hypocrite.
I bought one five-litre bottle of water when we went on a one night trip to the Okavango delta, where there wasn’t any running water. Aside from that, I drank tap water from my filter bottle. Of course it would have been nice to have a cool refreshing drink from the fridge every now and then, but it helped me get used to drinking warm water. I bought a WaterWell bottle from Amazon the week before I departed. There were only a couple of times that I drank unfiltered water, but I think having the bottle there was good for my peace of mind. It’s also something I can use again on future trips.
I don’t really consume soft drinks so I wasn’t responsible for much waste in this area. For me, camping and drinking are not compatible so I consumed far less alcohol than I normally would on holiday. I eschewed straws unless I had remembered my metal one (which I almost always managed to leave in my big rucksack). I brought my own plastic tub with me, which was very handy on days when we prepared sandwiches for ourselves.
Before departing for the trip, I fully intended to be flexitarian. But somehow, the first minute I stepped foot in a South African supermarket, I strongly felt that I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure how much awareness there would be of veganism, so I bought myself a survival kit.
Fortunately the guides were pretty understanding about different dietary requirements so I was generally provided with something I could eat each day.
However, the meals hit home that I don’t like eating in mixed company- especially when my meal is an impoverished version of what everyone else is having. This is what perpetuates the myth that vegan food is shit. Meat eaters see me looking miserable munching a salad while they’re cutting into a steak. I overheard one of the omnivores comment, “That’s just sad,” when looking at my vegan coleslaw (aka grated carrot and cabbage). Honestly, it was sad. But if I’d been provided with an alternative, it wouldn’t have been.
I’d noticed feeling unhappy in omnivore company a few times last year, but the holiday really put it into focus. I don’t like being given different food to others. It’s hard, because I end up feeling ungrateful when someone has gone to the effort of catering for me. I’ve managed to organise my life so that I mostly eat at veggie and vegan places and I will continue to phase out visits to establishments that serve meat.
Fortunately avocados were in season, so I was able to supplement the often-meagre vegan options with those, and lots of peanut butter (not together obvs). Otherwise I would have struggled. I felt annoyed at times because I’d paid the same amount of money as the meat-eaters but ended up having to top up my food when they didn’t.
I only broke my vegan vows a couple of times. I had three coffees with cow milk (all horrible- oat milk is vastly superior in my opinion), and one sandwich that I had already started spreading before realising I was using butter rather than margarine. I also had a slice of cake on the first night, and two eggs when there was a miscommunication with a restaurant about what I did/didn’t eat. Not bad considering that there was not a single meal of the trip where animal products were not served.
Being away has been a reminder that I’m pretty lucky to live in a place where it’s easy to be vegan, and you don’t spend your whole life feeling that you’re missing out.
I put my OddBox subscription on hold when I moved house and I haven’t felt ready to restart deliveries. In the end, I was lured back by a 50% discount code. I followed in the footsteps of my colleague (another vegan OddBoxer- am I a stereotype?) and ordered a large box to maximise value for money. I got all of this for £9.24.
Since I read some posts saying that the sweetcorn would quickly start to use its sweetness, I was keen to use that first. I made a vegan corn chowder and it’s absolutely delicious. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly since I was using the produce I had on hand. I had around 1.2kg of baby potatoes and three large ears of corn. I also used up some spring onions in place of the onion. And used orange carrots. I ended up with five large and filling servings.
I followed the recipe OddBox sent for stock using the corn cobs and husks. I used it in the risotto I made with the butternut squash. I veganised (aka subbed vegan parmesan for dairy) this recipe that I’ve had for years.
With the rest of the veg, I made a big stir fry/noodle type extravaganza. I stir-fried the spring onions, peppers, broccoli, beans and chard. I added various Asian sauces (soy/sweet chilli) and a couple of packets of cubed firm tofu. I also boiled two nests of the wheat noodles I get from the zero waste store and chucked that in. This is the sort of thing I make when I’m lacking in cooking time and want something easy, tasty and plentiful. I ended up with 8 servings that put me in excellent stead for the following week’s meals. I had to stick some in the freezer so I will have to keep my fingers crossed that it freezes well.
I think I flew a little bit too close to the sun with the vegetable stir-fry. Because I had so much veg in the pan, it started to stew. The noodles still taste fine, I just think it would have been better if I hadn’t cooked quite so much in one go.
I also made some porridge using some of the apples and pears. It wasn’t as delicious as normal because I’d run out of ground cinnamon. I did chuck in a cinnamon stick but I don’t think I left it to infuse for long enough to impart much flavour.
Having the large box was kind of a game-changer. The problem with the small box I normally get is that the smaller quantities are not conducive to batch cooking (aka meal prepping). As you may have noticed, I love to batch cook. It means that I can eat almost exclusively home-cooked food while only needing to cook a few times a week. Although I love cooking, time is a very precious commodity for me.
The only slight problem with the large box is that it includes a lot of fruit. While I love fruit, I generally try not to eat more than 2-3 servings a day since it is quite high in sugar. I use OddBox to support their efforts to prevent food waste, so I would be heartbroken if I had to compost any of it. I might try out different boxes over the next few months- trying a vegetable-only box would mean that I am not overloaded with fruit. Or perhaps a medium-sized box would be more manageable (I cooked more than usual this week to ensure that all the produce would get used). In any case, I’m so pleased I tried out the large box using the half-price code. I got so many delicious, fresh meals for a very reasonable price.
Hit me up if you want to give them a try! I can even give you a sweet £5 referral code. Not a sponsored post (I wish), I just think they are great.
I didn’t post about my twelfth OddBox because I didn’t make anything that interesting. Here is what I received in my most recent instalment.
My flatmate brought me some curry mix back from Singapore. I used some onions, the squash and potatoes in a vegan curry. It was really tasty!
I added a block of Tofoo brand extra-firm tofu to increase the protein content. The curry paste is pretty spicy so it’s nice to have something bland in there too.
I used the beetroot, an apple and the remaining onions in this vegan galette.
I found the recipe on Pinterest. I have to say the galette is amazing. The vegetables all have the right texture (this was on me, I roasted them for different amounts of time until I was happy) and their natural taste is enhanced by the dressing. The pastry is lovely and crisp. I used chunky sea salt that adds an extra crunch too. I was worried that it would be horribly dry. Like the vegan patties I made, the galette is on the dry side but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
You can easily adjust the recipe according to what you have. I used quite a bit more veg than stated in the recipe (due to what I had on hand). I just rolled the pastry extra-thin and piled the veg high. It worked well.
I made soup with the cabbage.
Last week, I returned from Lapland to my latest OddBox delivery.
I must say that I was baffled by the item in the bottom left corner. I thought it was a beetroot but there was no indication on the website or letter that we would get beetroot this week. I then thought it might be a really big potato. It smelled like a potato.
It was indeed a yellow beetroot, though I wasn’t entirely certain until I had cooked and tasted it 🙈
I stir-fried the cavolo nero and purple broccoli.
I followed the recipe that came in the box for a roasted carrot and lentil salad. I don’t really like roasted carrot (I prefer sweet potato) but I liked the lentils and dressing, and it was pretty filling.
I also followed the vegetable soup recipe from the box. The soup is serviceable but it looks repulsive.
I also managed to have zero waste vegan quidditch tournament! When I realised that the only available food would be from a burger van, I took some time to food prep. I had shopped in the Source and Lemons & Limes, a lovely greengrocer in Chiswick. I made the satay noodle dish I’ve done a few times before.
I packed two servings and warmed them up each morning before transferring to my vacuum flask.
Since I was volunteering, I got a £5 food voucher. I got some (black) coffee in my keep cup and the lid of my food container saved a couple of polystyrene trays from landfill. Its so nice to be able to eat hot food when you’re standing around outside in Manchester all day.
The team I was coaching came third and my club’s second team (London Unstoppables) took silver, so all in all a successful weekend.
My most recent Oddbox arrived during the busy final week of Veganuary.
I made some sticky sesame cauliflower. Since I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I added in some cashews. It was pretty nice- possibly some of the enjoyment was lowered because I didn’t reduce the sauce enough. I’m not sure if I would make this again because it really was not filling. I still struggle to remember that just because something looks like a decent amount of food, vegetables simply do not fill me up.
I haven’t eaten a turnip (to my knowledge) in years so I decided to roast it. The roasted turnip was okay. I wasn’t sure if I like turnip but I think that it’s swede that I really hate. I don’t tend to like bitter vegetables. The leftover roast swede was slimy and inedible so I stuck that in with the remaining cauliflower when I made some meatless balls. I’ve made this recipe before. It’s quite easy, filling and a good way to get rid of cauliflower.
The kale, cucumber and fruit went into either smoothies or lassis. I decided to go with a lassi as a non-vegan treat but I made the regrettable decision to try kefir rather than using Greek yoghurt. I will certainly not be doing that again. I juiced the carrots as I did with the beets last week. I am going to stop juicing until I have found a responsible way of disposing of my food waste. Even though I am ‘using’ the veg, in reality most of it is going in the bin.
Overall not the most interesting week but things have been so busy and hectic that I’m just pleased to have managed not to waste much food.
I stayed in a hotel at the weekend and remembered anew that sachets of instant coffee and individually wrapped tea bags are the status quo at most chains. I need to start travelling with my own sustainable solution. At home, I have vegan flat whites made from package-free beans and oat milk (tetra pak but not much alternative at present).
I have managed to convince my aunt to stop wrapping presents for me in foil gift wrap (it’s my birthday on Thursday). Even though there is still tape, at least I know that it’s reused paper rather than virgin material.
Our Finnish friend brought us some rye bread that she recommended for avocado toast.
It was very nice indeed. I had the last serving of white chilli for lunch. I was still hungry after eating my energy bar when I was finished with my school visit. I got a Crosstown doughnut.
I had some of the pea soup I made last week for dinner. It was quite spicy! Maybe I added too much pepper.
Had avocado toast first thing, then some leftover hummus and oatcakes after the gym. I had an early lunch of pea soup before heading to a meeting. We went for a couple of drinks after the meeting and I ate a lot of the crisps on offer. I had a patty on the tube home and then some (more) oatcakes with almond butter because I was still hungry.
I also figured out how the use the juicer because I wanted to get rid of the last giant beetroot I had. I made beetroot, apple and celery juice with some turmeric and ginger. It was pretty nice, but I am just not that crazy about beetroot.
I had the rest of the juice and a banana and almond butter toastie for breakfast. I didn’t have any chocolate to add, but it was still tasty.
I was already peckish on my way back to the office at 11.30 so I decided to try the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll. Overall the experience was pretty identical to eating a normal sausage roll, i.e. initially pleasurable but overall regrettable.
I had the last of the satay-style noodles for my proper lunch. For dinner, I went to BoxPark with some friends to see Veganuary out in style. I had my first experience of seitan courtesy of the Athenian. My flatmate and I split a doner kebab.
And some jackfruit ‘wings’ from Biff’s Jack Shack.
I wasn’t that keen on all of the flavours. I liked the sweetest one (I think it had bourbon in it. If I go back to BoxPark (and I’m sure I will at some point), I would like to try their burger.
Overall Veganuary was a positive experience after a difficult start. As hoped, it has opened my eyes to the amazing array of vegan options on offer in London.
My friend Emma used the term freegan, which I prefer to flexitarian. Overall my intention is to remain mostly plant-based, especially at home. However, it’s important for me to give myself permission to occasionally choose animal products if that’s what makes sense or what I want in a particular situation.
I was a little bit concerned that I would gain weight because I have been eating so much more than normal. In fact, I have lost about 1-2kg over the course of the month. While our society normally celebrates women taking up as little space as possible, I’m not sure if this is a good thing. I was already a healthy weight so I hope this does not mean that I have lost muscle mass.