Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ingredient of the month 32: Tempeh

Chunks of artisan kala chana (dark chickpea) and soybean tempeh, marinated in tamari and ginger and grilled. Yum!
Tempeh is our new favourite thing! Let me explain; our friend Alex of Beet the System is about to launch his artisan tempeh-making enterprise, and we've had the privilege of trying out some of his varieties. We even bought a rather large amount to make tempeh burritos for the Nectar of Vraja Festival recently. Everyone we know who has tried Alex's tempeh has pronounced it to be crazy good. He makes it from combinations of soya beans, barley and kala chana; each has its own distinctive flavour and texture. But  taste and versatility is not the only thing tempeh has going for it- check out these key tempeh facts (thanks to Wikipedia and Fitsugar):
  • Tempeh is traditional to Indonesia, and especially popular in Java.
  • Compared with tofu, tempeh contains more protein, vitamins and fibre because it is made from fermented whole soya.
  • Soya beans are soaked, dehulled and partially cooked, then rhizopus ogliosporus fungus spores are added and its white mycelium knits the beans together. For this to happen, the beans have to be kept at around 30C. Tempeh ripens after a couple of days' fermentation, but keeps on maturing when stored. The flavour (sort of mushroom-y, beany, nutty and cheese-y) gets stronger as it matures, and harmless dark spores may appear on the tempeh. Luckily, tempeh freezes well for longer storage.
  • The nutritive value of tempeh is awesome- it has even made it onto the "World's most Nutritious Foods" list. The starter culture (in Indonesia, anyway) contains bacteria that produce vitamin B12 (a rarely-sourced but essential vitamin if you're vegan). It is not yet clear how much of the B12 can be absorbed, though. What makes tempeh so special is the fact it's fermented; this means that the minerals and protein in the soya beans are more easily absorbed by the body. It's 15% protein as opposed to tofu's 10%, and has much more fibre. It is also a bit more calorific, but don't let that put you off this amazing food. Soya contains many B vitamins (though not B12), choline and  vitamin K, as well as the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. The protein in soya contains all 8 essential amino acids. and is therefore "complete".
  • Grilled, baked or fried, tempeh is delicious with a sprinkling of tamari sauce. It makes a great instant burger or sandwich filling, and of course can be used in a number of traditional ways in dishes like stir fries. You can even grate/ crumble tempeh to make "mince" for bologneses, chillis and tacos.
What's your favourite way to eat tempeh?
PS: How's this for an unusual tempeh dish- grilled/fried tempeh and marmalade on toast. I tried it. It's delicious!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Vegan Beauty Products from the High Street

These products are all vegan and not tested on animals. They are from Holland and Barrett and Superdrug
Being vegan is all about not causing suffering to other beings, whatever the species. Awareness usually begins with diet but pretty soon you realise that animals (and people) are being exploited for clothes and cosmetics too. Gone are the days when vegan products were only available at great expense from specialist shops or by mail order; there are vegan options on the high street now at easily affordable prices. I have been replacing my usual toiletries with cruelty free options as the old ones run out, so yesterday I went shopping to see what I could get...

Dr Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Night Cream: This was from Holland and Barrett and cost £7.12 (reduced from £9.49) for 50 ml. (I reviewed Dr Organic Aloe Vera range night cream earlier this year-see here.) It doesn't sound like much for your money, but my last pot lasted about 3 1/2  months of nightly use so I think that's pretty good value. I used the cream last night and it was certainly a wonderfully nourishing and smooth-feeling cream, yet not too heavy. It went on very easily and although it doesn't have the wonderful herbal smell of the aloe vera cream, I think I actually prefer it.

My next stop was Superdrug, where I found quite a few bargains and snapped up four of them:

  • Superdrug Vitamin E All Over Body Butter (£2.99 for 200ml):  This was my swap for my old choice, Palmer's Cocoa Butter. I use this on my feet and anywhere else that's prone to getting dry on a daily basis, and my feet are so dry whatever I use absolutely has to be good- even pure coconut oil does not work well enough for me! I was attracted by the Vitamin E content and the fact that it contains both cocoa and shea butter. I miss the delicious smell of Palmer's, but I now feel so good that my body butter is vegan and not tested on animals and I'm more than happy with that as a trade off. It even has the BUAV leaping bunny symbol! I also like the container- it's really hard to get the last of the Palmer's out of the squeezy bottle but this tub means the product is easy to get at. As for the butter itself; well I have to admit it doesn't seem to keep my feet quite as moisturised as the Palmer's but it certainly does the job better than coconut oil, or any of the other butters I've tried (including Body Shop ones.) This products gets a thumbs-up from me!
  • Superdrug Essential Toothpaste (49p for 50ml): I haven't used it yet, but I'm sure it will do the job just fine. It's a handy size to pack if you're going away, and although it contains fluoride, it fits the vegan and non animal-tested criteria. Not my toothpaste of choice (I like Vicco ayurvedic toothpaste) but great when you can't get to a wholefood shop or haven't been to India for a while. It would be even better if Superdrug brought out a fluoride free version of this.
  • Superdrug 3 Minute Formula Hair Removing Cream (£1.45 for 100ml): Yeah, I know. These things are full of nasty chemicals and there's always shaving or waxing or electrolysis or threading, but I do find hair removing creams an easy option sometimes. And this product is vegan and has the leaping bunny symbol, so it's only myself I am hurting need to worry about. I must say the "3 minute" name is a little bit misleading though, as after three minutes my legs were still decidedly fuzzy. I then read in the small print that some types of hair might take up to 6 minutes, which seems like a more realistic claim. (Although not recommended, I did try it on my face too- ouch!) The horrible chemical smell was unmasked by any perfume, but this is probably no bad thing as it reminds me that this is by no means a natural product. I'm going to stick with it, as it's cheap and vegan, and I'll take the full 6 minutes next time so maybe it will work better. Oh, and it also comes with a handy plastic spatula.
  • Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree Shower Gel: This was a half-price bargain at just £1 so I had to snap it up. I have always like their products, which come with the Vegan Society mark. Fresh-smelling and good quality shower gel you just can't go wrong with.

I also visited Poundland, which does sell Original Source products most of the time too, only not the shampoos and conditioners these days. I need to do some research on some things like the Health Point bio-oil and body creams, but if they are cruelty free vegan, then that's another potential source of beauty bargains. (Don't forget they sell (usually) great makeup mirrors, tweezers, hair grips and other bits and bobs too.) There are also some yummy sweets like Haribo Giant Strawbs, Raspberry Ruffles and Fruit Hearts/ Stars as well as a range of trail mixes, dried fruit seeds and nuts, and even stuff like wasabi peas, the vast majority of which are vegan. (See our Vegan on a Budget blog article for more details about these.) I'll keep you posted on whether the beauty products they sell are suitable for vegans or not.