Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Is there an election happening?

All of you lovely people living in East Edinburgh might be surprised shortly to find my face on a General Election campaign leaflet. I was approached by the current MP for Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore MP of the Labour Party and asked whether I would be happy to help her re-election campaign as a local and engaged constituent who has gotten in touch with her on numerous occasions ranging from fracking, the Lobbying Bill, TTIP and the NHS. She asked whether I would be willing to appear on her election campaign leaflet with a supportive quote outlining how she’s helped.

I strongly believe in voting. So strongly in fact that despite being a European national with the right to live and work in the UK and vote in local and Scottish elections, I still paid over £1,000 and spent many stressed-filled hours over the minutia of my application to become a British Citizen for the right to vote and participate in the General Election. There are people and predominately women in the world who don’t have the right the vote or who risk their lives to exercise the right to vote. Celebrities and anarchists tell us there is no point in voting, only full-scale revolution can bring about the changes we need. While the ideologies they express and the revolution they aspire to would be idealistic, realistically we're not there yet as people are still too scared and comfortable in their ways of living, me included! Having said that, we are also not at the stage where not voting ‘in protest’ at the system is a viable options because it paves the way for continuation of political parties perpetuating the status quo or parties proposing worse. The success of extreme and intolerant political parties is based on the fact that people who support them go out and vote. Those of a liberal tolerant inclination shouldn’t be surprised things aren’t changing if they’re not voting ‘in protest’ or because they think their vote won’t make a difference. Imagine if the reverse were true, how different the world would look then?

I also believe in a participatory democracy both as a constituent but from my representatives as well. If I demand their attention, I shouldn’t be surprised when the reverse happens. As far as I am concerned and regardless of party politics, Sheila Gilmore MP is a good MP. She was approachable and available. She listened and genuinely responded. She kept me updated. In 4 out of 5 times, she shared my concerns and gave me the understanding that like me, she wants to make the country we live in a fairer, equal, environmentally sound and safer place. Despite what I will be voting in May, I decided to help Sheila Gilmore because she helped me during her term as MP. Because I’ve engaged with her as a person trying to make a difference and not an abstract, goliath impersonal political party.

I’m not telling you what to vote or who to vote for or even to vote for someone. Remember you can always spoil your ballot! I’m saying make sure you’re counted, make sure you participate in an exercise others only wish they could. Be counted, participate, do your own research, don’t pander to fear, trust your instincts, be heard and perhaps maybe help bring about the change you want to see.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Meat Free Week: Last Day - Tagine Surprise!

We made it! We made a difference! Also thank you for putting up with my atrocious food photos but hope you enjoyed the meals and discovered something new. A BIG thank you to everyone who sponsored me, I raised a respectable £95 and if you wish to find out what next now, please continue to visit the Meat Free Week website.

Hopefully you've seen for yourself how easy, tasty, nutritious and beneficial reducing your meat and fish consumption can be for your health, animal welfare and the environment. Make meat a savoured special occasion rather than a standard ingredient to be bored by. Most importantly find what system or rhythm realistically works for you, you're more likely to stick with it then!

The final recipe today is thanks to my culinary genius girlfriend who is resourceful and imaginative in the kitchen. She whipped this surprise tagine together with what we had left over from the week, what was in the veg box and in the fridge; remember we don't like waste in this household!

Tagine Surprise

Serves an intimate two
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour

You need a tagine dish for this one!

Ingredients and Preparation

3 teaspoons of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of ras el hanout

Half teaspoon of sumac

Half teaspoon of cinnamon

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium parsnip, roughly chopped

2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

In this one we used Quorn chicken style pieces as they were in the fridge

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

Salt to taste

1 tin of chickpeas (extra tin from Day Four - see recipe here!)

For the garnish - fresh coriander, a squeeze of lemon juice and onion relish

Couscous enough for two people - optional for tasty couscous is avocado oil!

1. Heat olive oil in frying pan
2. Add onions and fry until soft and golden
3. Add all spices and cook for a couple of minutes
4. Add carrots, parsnips, Quorn chicken pieces and chickpeas and tomato paste
5. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes on a low heat
6. In the meantime, heat oven to 200C/ Gas mark 4 and warm tagine dish in it
7. Put the contents of the frying pan into the tagine dish and cook in the oven for 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft. 
8. To make couscous - place couscous in bowl, add boiling water and cover until all water is absorbed. Add oil of your choice (we're so fancy with our avocado one) or butter to couscous
9. Dish up and garnish and enjoy! 

This was so tasty, I nearly forgot to take a picture at all before I gulped it all down!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Meat Free Week: Day Six - Cauliflower Cheese

Sorry for the very late post today but it's been Earth Hour here in the UK, turning our lights and electricity off for the planet. Earth Hour is still sweeping across the globe, so watch Earth Hour Live on the website

Meat Free Week advocates reducing your meat consumption because of the impact it is having on our health, animals and the environment. As today is Earth Hour, here is a environment related fact from the Meat Free Week website:

Deforestation is a major global crisis. As demand for agriculture grows, grazing space continues to leach more forest from our environment, especially in the Amazon. If current trends in agriculture for grazing and crops continue, we can expect to see as much as forty per cent of the rainforest destroyed by 2050.1 This also leads to the destruction of crucial carbon sinks and releases harmful gases that have been stored on soil and vegetation.

Today's recipe is one of my favourites and comes from LEON's cookbook ; Fast Vegetarian. Its a classic but another veg box winner! Its perfect for a wet and windy Saturday lunchtime, like today!

Cauliflower Cheese

Serves four to six people
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients and Preparation

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (a.k.a roughly chopped up!)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 teaspoons of maple syrup

350g creme fraiche

50g Gruyere cheese, grated

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon grated vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese

salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 170C/ 325F/gas mark 3
2. Toss cauliflower in a bowl with oil and maple syrup.
3. Season well. 
4. Transfer to an oven dish and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender
5. Put the creme fraiche, Gruyere and mustard into a bowl and stir to combine. 
6. Tip in the roasted cauliflower, mix until well coated and season.
3. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and put back into the oven for another 10 minutes, until golden. 

For veg box owners, don't be afraid to add other veggies you may have such as broccoli or kale. We cook our dish with kale and it's never tasted better!

Kale never tasted so good!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Meat Free Week: Friday Day Five - Red Lentil Stew

Its Friday and I don't about you but it's been a loooong week. Thank goodness I've had some delicious veggies for brain food!

If you've only just joined us, I've been blogging some veggie recipes all week for Meat Free Week which is a campaign raising awareness about excessive meat consumption and the impact it is having on our health, animals and the environment. You can find out loads more on the Meat Free Week website but my top fact is:  Scientists and environmentalists agree that reducing meat consumption will take pressure off the planet's resources. While estimates vary, it is clear that greenhouse gas production from livestock and meat production sector is significant and consumer can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint by reducing the volume of their meat consumption.

Also as part of week, plenty of people are being sponsored to go meat free for the week and its still not too late to sponsor me if you're inclined or if you've been enjoying the recipes. You can read more about my own reasons for going meat free in my original blog post on the subject.

Today is a recipe handed down to me from a friend and I'm now happy to share it with you, enjoy and happy Friday!

Red Lentil Stew

Serves 4 mains or 6 starters
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 to 30 minutes

Ingredients and Preparation

Red lentils - a large fistful for each person or about 200gs in total

1 tablespoon of rye seeds (if you can find them!)

I teaspoon of cumin seeds

2 medium onions, finely chopped

100g of cherry tomatoes sliced in half (or whatever's left over from yesterday's dish!)

5 green chillies, seeded and chopped finely (see how there's no waste now!)

2 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1. Boil the lentils in a pot until they become mushy. Don't use too much water as all will be used later in the dish and you don't want to drown it.
2. Meanwhile in another pot, heat the vegetable oil
3. Add the rye and cumin seeds to the oil and cook till they start popping
4. Add the onions, chillies and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or until soft
5. Add the boiled lentils to the second pot with all the ingredients and let it simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste
6. Cover and continue to cook on low heat for about 10 more minutes

When to add the coriander depends on your taste. If you like cooked coriander, add it at step 6, if you like it fresh, garnish the dish with it when serving. Choice is yours!

Serve either on its own or with rice. Enjoy!

I like my coriander fresh and plenty of it!