Afia’s Gluten Free Samosas! – Review

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One of my great summer memories was at Reading Festival a few years ago. I wasn’t gluten free back then but it was still surprisingly difficult to find vegan food. Luckily Waitrose was just a ten minute walk from our campsite and I found massive vegan samosas in their chilled section that I ate all weekend. Sadly a gluten free samosa is hard to come by, especially a vegan one!

Enter Afia’s, a traditional indian company that specialise in gluten free samosas, pakoras, achaar (indian pickles) and chutneys. While their range includes some meat products, five of their Samosa fillings are vegan! I recently had a chance to try some of their traditional vegetable samosas and spicy parathas so I snapped it up!

Their samosas and parathas come frozen and ready to put in your freezer. This means they’re ready to cook anytime! They also come with cooking instructions it’s pretty impossible to get wrong. I oven cooked mine as I don’t have access to a deep fat fryer. I brushed them with oil and baked them for 10 minutes as instructed and they came out absolutely beautiful.

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The inside of the samosa seemed to be mainly potato but there were also peas and sweetcorn in there. It was lovely and soft with a kick from the masala spices. The pastry was something else! I would never have thought it was gluten free! Most gluten free pastry I try turns out dry and crumbly but this was crispy and made a gorgeous contrast to the filling. This is definitely something I’d eat again.

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I have to admit I’d never heard of a Paratha until now. After a quick google I discovered that they could be used like a wrap and eaten with salad or any other fillings. I had mine on the side of my aubergine curry which was a good choice because I needed the rice to cool my mouth down! These wraps are made with gram flour, corn flour, potatoes, green chillis and other spices. They are extremely delicate and mine broke in the pan but this may have been because it had defrosted slightly. It was really tasty but slightly too spicy for my taste buds. I’m not known for my ability to handle spice!

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What makes this company so great is the fact they can cater to all sorts of different dietary requirements. One of the ladies is coeliac herself which definitely puts my mind at ease! Next I’ll definitely be ordering more samosas and some chapatti’s too.

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Have you tried Afia’s? What did you think?

Vegan MOFO plans!

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Welcome everyone to Vegan MOFO 2014!

I don’t know about you but I’ve spent the day adding all of the participating blogs to my blogreader. There are some exciting themes out there including bento boxes, Harry Potter and Disney!

As I have a huge collection of cookbooks it was obvious to me that my theme was going to somehow involve getting through these. However I did want to do something a little different to what you usually find on here. I have decided to get out some of my pre-vegan pre-gluten free books to see what treasures I can find inside. I have slowly put aside more and more of my favourite books as I adapted my diet but there are recipes to be found in the old books which can be easily converted to fit my current diet!

Therefore my theme is focussing on books that many people happen to have in their homes before they transition into veganism. I’m going to show you how I adapt recipes to be gluten free and vegan as well as give you a few ideas of which types of books to look out for.

I’m aiming to post every day this year! My daily themes will be:

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It can be hard to cook from scratch for every meal but with a bit of extra planning you can have tasty food ready in your fridge for when you get home on these darkening nights! On Monday’s I will be sharing recipes I’ve adapted which are perfect for making life a little easier.

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tuesdaytips

Which vegan cheeses are the best? What should you use instead of bread? Is there a way to make gluten free pasta better than a soggy mess? On Tuesdays I will be listing tips to help you veganise your own recipes.

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wildcardwednesday

Some things just can’t be categorised! Check here on a Wednesday to see anything from product reviews to the latest vegan news!

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throwbackthursday

Macaroni cheese just isn’t possible anymore. Or is it? Let’s introduce some of your old favourites back into your diet!

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fruityfriday

Baked fruit desserts are always laden full of milk, eggs and gluten aren’t they? Not anymore!

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stressfreesaturday

If you look closely enough there are recipes in non-vegan books that just happen to fit into our diet! This means some stress-free cooking!

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sundayseven

The best thing about Vegan MOFO is finding new and exciting blogs. Join me on a Sunday for my favourite seven blog posts from the week!

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I hope you can join me for what promises to be an exciting and hectic month! As last year, I’d like to meet any other UK bloggers so please get in touch!

Why Organic Food is Better For You and the Environment

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This week there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of organic eating. If you have been watching the news you will have seen many debates about whether eating organically is actually better for your health or not. This has been a long argued debate over the years and there are extreme opinions on both sides of the fence. When I heard of the scientific study “proving” that organic food was healthier than regular food it was music to my ears. However, after a bit of research I am a bit sceptical of the results.

The study in question can be found here. The results showed that organic produce had higher levels of the antioxidants which can contribute to good health than those that had been grown conventionally. They also contained lower levels of dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. The team who carried out the study have claimed that the significant health benefits are equivalent to eating another 1 or 2 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. There has been controversy however, with sceptics arguing that the methodology is questionable and that the results are being exaggerated.

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The study involved compiling the results of 343 previous experiments which found a significant difference in the composition of organic and non organic foods. This kind of analysis does come with many problems, the worst of which being the difference in methodology in the studies that are being compared. In the introduction of this paper the authors admit that there were “major research synthesis challenges” and that there could have been variations in soil quality and the crop varieties used in the studies. The sceptics have also acknowledged this claiming that the differences could be based on any number of factors and may not be due to whether the crops were grown organically or not.

So the debate rages on and many families are still left confused about whether they should be spending the extra money on organic food for their children’s health. For me the debate about the health benefits of organic food is not the end of the story. According to the Soil Association 44% of the people buying organic foods in this country are doing it , at least in part, for environmental reasons. Conventional farming was developed to fight food shortages and made food much cheaper to grow and buy. It is true that buying organically will probably cost you more money but the thing to consider is whether it’s really worth it at the sacrifice of the environment we depend on. Pesticides and herbicides cause soil degradation and pollute rivers and other water systems. As a country we spend billions of pounds cleaning these chemicals out of our drinking water which makes you worry about the quality of the water our wildlife is drinking. As well as this, the chemicals used in our food systems have been thought to be causing huge damages to the populations of our native bees. I don’t need to tell you how much danger we will be in if our bees become extinct.

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For me organic food is healthier as the vitamins I’m gaining do not come with a side serving of chemicals. The reactions to this article have me asking a question I find myself asking again and again at the moment. Why do we consider ourselves as more important than the environment we live in? How much more do we think the environment can take?

I’ll happily hand over the extra pound for my organic bananas. Will you?

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Related Article:

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Bees and Honey – A Vegan Perspective

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Find out more:

Clear differences between organic and non-organic food, study finds – The Guardian

What is organic food? – The Soil Association

The original study

The North West Vegan Festival – 7th June 2014

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My Cupcakes proves that veganism is not all about lettuce leaves!

This weekend I travelled to Lancaster to visit the North West Vegan Festival. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while and the impressive list of sponsors heightened that excitement. The Festival was slightly bigger than the LABL fairs I’ve recently attended with one room for food stalls and the other for non food. This was a brilliant idea as it showcased all aspects of the vegan lifestyle and meant charities and animal friendly companies didn’t have to fight for attention amongst the cupcakes! As I had a work appointment in the afternoon I didn’t spend as long as I usually would at these events but I still got to meet some great people and came home with some beautiful things.

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I spent a lot of time in the non food room and my first purchase of the day was one of these cute Vegan necklaces! I went for the different coloured beads with Vegan in the middle but it was a tough call. The metal stamped necklaces were beautiful too.

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I haven’t fully transitioned into using all vegan cosmetics as I find it very expensive to replace the left overs from my non-vegan days. With the prices of these beauties though I could stock up! The soaps were all completely vegan and palm oil free and the fragrances were magnificent. I came home with a cinnamon bar which was my favourite of the bunch.

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Harpers Bizarre was a stall I’ve never come across before although apparently they were at the Liverpool Fair! Their candles are made with soya wax and are 100% animal free as you’d expect but the fragrances were amazing. I used to use Yankee candles all the time but I think I’ve found an excellent replacement! Their scent catalogue is huge and they also sell Bargain Basement candles which are one off designs. I came home with a House of Red candle from the bargain section which smells gorgeously sweet. Check out the rest of their range here.

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One of my favourite cupcake sellers, Captain Cakeman was at the festival and he provided me with gluten free cakes as usual! This time I came back with a rose cupcake (on the left) and a violet one (on the right).

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 Last, but not least, I found my other favourite cupcake shop! My Cupcakes is a vegan and gluten free stall which sells more than just cakes! I’ve tried their lemon curd, cookies and donuts in the past and everything has been delicious. This time I resisted the cupcakes and bought a huge white chocolate chip cookie and a slice of pear and pecan cake. Look for a review coming soon!

Despite the terrible weather I loved my trip to the North West Festival. It was nice to see more literature and non food stalls available and there was a lovely atmosphere as there always is at these.

You can see the full album of photos on the Facebook page here. Pop over and “like” us!

Did anyone else go to the festival? What did you think?

Vegan MoFo #25 – A-Z of Gluten Free Veganism (Walnuts)

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Welcome to day 25 of Vegan MoFo and W in our A-Z of Gluten Free Veganism!

Today we’re looking at one of my favourite nuts – the walnut. These nuts are full of good fats, omega 3 and vitamin E which makes them an excellent addition to the vegan diet. They can be used in a huge variety of recipes. Here are some of my favourite ways to use walnuts.

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In this Sundried Tomato and Basil Scrambled Tofu recipe they add crunch and texture to an otherwise soft dish.

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A traditional way to use walnuts is to add them into a Waldorf Salad with apples and celery.

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I used walnuts in this roasted mushroom and aubergine recipe to add some crunch and intensify the earthy flavours.

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What are your favourite walnut recipes?

While you’re here don’t forget to enter our Frank Chocolate Bars competition!

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Vegan MoFo #19 – A-Z of Gluten Free Veganism (Quinoa)

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Welcome to day 19 of Vegan MoFo! Today we’re carrying on our A-Z of Gluten Free Veganism with Q – Quinoa.

Quinoa is used to replace grains such as rice and cous cous in various meals. It’s little known that quinoa is actually the seed of a plant and not a grain! It is also a protein powerhouse as it contains each of the nine essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein”. I use quinoa a lot, boiling it in some vegetable stock for around 15 minutes and serving it instead of rice. Here are a few recipes I’ve used it in:

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Braised purple sprouting broccoli with red quinoa

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Chickpea quinoa pilaf from Veganomicon

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Quinoa and roasted cherry tomato stuffed portobello mushroom

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Quinoa and roasted tomato salad

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What are your favourite ways to use quinoa?

Vegan MoFo #16 – A-Z of Gluten Free Veganism (Nakd Bars)

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It’s day 16 of Vegan MoFo and we’re up to the letter N in our A-Z of gluten free veganism! Today I want to tell you about my favourite snack bars – Nakd Bars.

These bars were created by Natural Balance Foods and are available in most supermarkets as well as health food shops and online. They are made with 100% natural ingredients and are just dried fruit and nuts squished together. You would never imagine that these beautiful flavours had nothing artificial in! I bought one of each bar (apart from the Caffe Mocha because I can’t stand coffee) so I could give you a quick overview of the range.

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This delicious little bar is made up of two ingredients: dates and cashews. I loved this more than I thought I would as I imagined it might be quite boring tasting. It definitely wasn’t! The simplicity of this bar is probably one of it’s best qualities. It is nice and soft and beautifully sweet without any horrible syrups or sugars.

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Pecan Pie is made up of pecans, dates and almonds and is one of my favourites as I love pecans. This tastes remarkably like a pecan pie and is filling too!

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This ginger bread bar is mouthwatering. It contains dates, almonds, pecans, cloves, ginger and cinnamon and is wonderfully spicy! This is definitely a must try.

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I’d say the berry delight bar tastes the most like a health food bar but this doesn’t put me off. It’s made of dates, cashews, raisins, raspberries and natural flavours and the berry flavour really comes through. It’s a nice fruity snack.

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I don’t know how they did it but this bar is made up of dates, cashews, raisins and natural flavourings and tastes exactly like the rhubarb and custard sweets I used to love as a child! I found this bar a lot softer than the others too. It’s definitely my favourite of the bunch!

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The cocoa orange bar is my second favourite. Chocolate and orange are one of my favourite flavour combinations and this is a guilt free version! It is made up of dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and natural flavouring but tastes like a treat.

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The cocoa mint bar tastes like it should be naughtier than it is. It is made up of dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and natural mint flavouring and yet it tastes like a mint aero! The texture is almost truffle like so the bar feels truly decadent.

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I think the cocoa delight bar tastes like a slightly fruity truffle! It’s gloriously decadent and made up of dates, cashews, raisins, cocoa and natural flavourings. I’ve heard that if you stick this bar in the microwave for a little bit it tastes like a warm chocolate brownie!

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The crunch bars are new to the Nakd family. This apple crunch bar is made of dates, soya crunchies, cashews, raisins, dried apple, apple juice concentrate and bramley apple flavouring. It has a lovely refreshing apple flavour and the crunchies add a nice texture to the bar.

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Strawberry is usually my favourite flavour in anything. This strawberry crunch bar is really nice but not quite strawberry enough for me! It contains dates, soya crunchies, cashews, raisins, strawberries, apple juice concentrate and natural flavouring.

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Bananas are my favourite fruit so I was excited to try this. I think the banana flavouring comes across quite strongly here but that’s what I like about it! It tastes like the banana medicine I used to love as a child. The banana crunch bar contains dates, soya crunchies, cashews, raisins, dried banana, apple juice concentrate and banana flavouring.

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I used to love chocolate bars with rice crispies in and this cocoa crunch bar reminds me of eating them! This bar contains dates, soya crunchies, cashews, raisins, cocoa, apple juice concentrate and chocolate flavouring.

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I love every single one of these flavours and always have a couple in my bag for snacks. I’ve never known such a healthy bar to be available in so many amazing varieties!

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Have you tried Nakd bars? What are your favourites?