Monday, 29 December 2014

Berbere spiced lentil & barley stew

I don't know about you, but after all a few too many sweets and chocolates over Christmas, I just crave something nourishing.  Add to that the fact we've had no boiler since Christmas Eve in our house, so it needed to warm us up too.  This lentil and barley stew is flavoured with the gorgeous Ethiopian spice, Berbere, and is just what the doctor ordered.  

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced/finely chopped
  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of berbere 
  • 400g of pre-cooked lentils (you can add them uncooked but it will take longer as the salt in the stock can slow the cooking of the lentils)
  • 1/2 cup of pearl barley (approx 80ml in a measuring jug)
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  1. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the onion, carrot, and celery
  2. Once the onions begin to go translucent, add the garlic and berbere and mix well
  3. Allow time for the garlic to begin to cook, then add the lentils and stir before mixing in the chopped tomatoes
  4. Add the vegetable stock, stirring as you go
  5. Bring to the boil then add the pearl barley
  6. Set to simmer or transfer to a slow/soup cooker for 45-60 minutes or until the pearl barley is cooked 
  7. If the stew gets too thick, feel free to add a drop more water to get it to your desired consistency
  8. Serve with injera (Ethiopian pancakes) or flat bread 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Vegan Supermarket Shopping

Photo by Christine McIntosh Image Source
One thing that can seem daunting to some new vegans is grocery shopping.  Whilst veganism goes beyond what we buy in our weekly shop, groceries, and food in particular, is probably the one area where have to make choices most frequently for so it can feel like quite a responsibility to have to make sure every item we buy is animal free.  However, it's not quite as difficult as it may seem initially and there are a number of things you can do to make it easier whilst you get into a routine.  Once you're in your new routine, shopping becomes pretty much the same as it was before - you'll have your main shopping list of regular items and then each time you shop, you'll probably add or change the odd item for something new you'd like to try.

Until you get into your new routine, here are a few tips to get you started:

Supermarket Lists:
Now this is one thing I wish I had known about when I first became vegan as these would have been very useful!  Most of the main supermarkets now publish regularly updated lists of their own-brand products that are suitable for vegans.  Here's where you can get the most up to date supermarket vegan lists:
Tesco: Scroll to the bottom of the page of this article for a link.
Sainsbury's: Again, scroll to the bottom of the article and click vegan.
Waitrose: Look under the 'suitable for' list and select vegan in this article.
Marks and Spencer: The last section of this article contains M&S's latest vegan list.
Ocado: They don't have a list but if you search the word 'vegan' on their website it brings up a list of items which you can search through.

Other shops: 
Asda doesn't do a vegan list but they do have a little icon on their web shop that indicates whether items are suitable for vegan.  It's not exhaustive and doesn't seem to cover all suitable items but is a good start.
Co-op doesn't publish a vegan list but they are pretty good at labelling items in store.

Label checking: 
This is can seem quite complicated before you get your vegan label checking superpower (trust me, give it a few months and you'll be scanning labels quicker than Johnny Five from Short Circuit!).  However, there's a fairly simple approach that will get you most of the way until you get the hang of the finer details.

First of all, check to see if the item is marked suitable for vegetarians - most manufacturers now will mark items as suitable for vegetarian if they are and so this is a quick way to ensure an item is free of ingredients like meat and gelatine.  Then check the allergens listing - look for things like milk, dairy, whey, milk derivatives, eggs, casein, milk protein, lactose, and milk powder.  Then quickly scan the ingredients list for the word honey.  If none of these ingredients are mentioned, and the item is likely to be suitable.

Now it's not an absolute failsafe - there will be some items that are exceptions to this (for example, some E numbers can be from animal sources and items fortified with D3 are usually not vegan) but as a new vegan, this will probably help you get most things right whilst you're getting to grips with everything else.  One other thing to note is not to worry, unless you're an allergy sufferer, about 'may contain' warnings.  These are simply disclaimers to warn people of possible (but usually very unlikely) cross-contamination where items are made in the same factory as products containing those ingredients but doesn't mean they're used as an actual ingredient.  Finally, there are some great pages and blogs out there from people who spend time checking out if products are suitable for vegans and sharing their findings online - one particularly good one is Vegan Womble.

Toiletries and household items:

This one can seem like a little bit more of a challenge as ingredients either aren't listed or seem like gobbledygook to most people.  You also have the issue of whether an item, or its ingredients are tested on animals.  The best way to be sure is to look for brands that are known to be suitable for vegans.  For household products these include Astonish, Ecozone, Bio-D, and Faith in Nature.  A number of the Co-op's own brand items are labelled as suitable for vegans.  For toiletries, a lot of vegans like Superdrug for everyday purchases like toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, skincare, and make-up as they have a wide range of products most of their items are clearly labelled in store as suitable for vegans.