Tom’s Recipe Book: Banana Smoothie

Confession: I don’t like bananas. At least, not a banana on its own.

But when you add a bit of water and blend that banana up, it suddenly becomes something that I absolutely love.

Banana smoothie is cheap, delicious and healthy, so why not give my recipe a go?

Makes ~500ml Smoothie

Ingredients

275g Chilled Ripe Bananas
150ml Cold Water

How To Make It

1. Break the bananas (NB. 275g once peeled!) into small pieces into the blender. If you have any leftover banana you can simply put it in the fridge as is or you can chop it up and freeze it.

Leftover Banana

2. Add the water to the blender (1ml of water weighs 1g so you can weigh your water instead if that makes it easier for you). If the bananas you’re using are not that ripe then you can also add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sugar to sweeten.

Banana & Water

3. Blend until smooth.

Banana Smoothie Blended

4. Serve straight away or place in the fridge for later.

Banana Smoothie Fridge

5. Enjoy!

Banana Smoothie

What did you think of this recipe? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk

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Sooty & Soo: A Tribute

It’s suddenly feeling rather empty here at spiced!HQ.

That’s because our dear old cat Soo sadly passed away yesterday at the age of 19. She and her twin brother Sooty were the first pets Rob and I ever got nearly 20 years ago, and so their passing marks the closing of a huge life chapter for both of us.

We took her to the vet 3 weeks ago, where she was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, after which we put her on medication and she gained weight. As such we thought she was going to pass away of old age like Sooty – who had the same thyroid problem – but unfortunately her condition rapidly deteriorated yesterday, and we decided that the best course of action was to have her put down. As sad as it was, I’m very grateful that my mum, Rob and I were all there together with her when she died.

It’s hard to comprehend that she and Sooty are both now gone, as they’ve been such an enormous part of our lives. We got them as rescue cats back in 1996 (some horrible person abandoned them in Edmonton in North London) when I was just 5 years old, so I’ve known them for as long as I can remember. Rob and I were both very excited to be getting pets for the first time, and we spent a long time with them in our old spare room thinking of names.

Soo Polaroid 1

Growing up they both enjoyed hunting a lot – much to the chagrin of my mum. Sooty was more of a traditional birds and mice cat, whilst Soo had an odd affinity for catching things like frogs and worms. We always did our best to look after any injured animals they brought in, and there were some happy endings where they recovered and we could take them to an animal shelter.

Sooty Guitar

As we got a bit older, more and more cats started arriving, until we had a total of 6 in the same house at the same time. You’d think a cat would feel very defensive about having so many intruders, but Sooty and Soo were so friendly and laid back that it didn’t bother them, and they soon made friends.

Soofa

From August 2007 onwards, Sooty and Soo lived at my mum’s current house. It was sad that they got split up from Bobby, Sophie and Tiny, but at the same time they no doubt appreciated a bit of space after those crowded years. And given that my dad’s cats live just down the road I’m sure they saw each other a few times.

Sooty Snood

We had a couple of scares while they were here (Sooty nearly got run over and Soo went missing for over a day), but overall they had a very happy, relaxed life and lived to a very good age, and that’s all you can ask for when you get pets.

Soo Licking Lips

So R.I.P. Sooty and Soo. You were the nicest possible cats we ever could have hoped for and we love you. If there is such a thing as kitty heaven then I’m sure you’ve both been reunited there.

Sooty & Soo

Tom’s Top Toiletries

If you’re not a vegan, chances are you probably haven’t given much thought to whether your toiletries are tested on animals or whether they contain animal-derived products.

But hopefully this post will show you that buying cruelty-free toiletries is a lot easier than you thought by showing you 4 of my favourite brands…

Bulldog

Sadly I am not actually in possession of any Bulldog at the moment, but rest assured it has been a very well received Christmas present over the years. And while I’ve only ever been bought individual bottles, they do make some lovely looking gift sets which make it perfect for presents.

Out of the products I’ve tried, the original face wash is probably my favourite. It’s a gentle daily cleanser that leaves your skin feeling grime-free without completely drying it out. Bulldog also make a sensitive version of most of their products, so it’s up to you to see what works best.

Bulldog Logo

http://www.meetthebulldog.com/

http://www.facebook.com/BulldogSkincareforMen

http://www.twitter.com/bulldognatural

Elements

Elements is a new male skincare company that very kindly sent me some samples of their face wash and moisturiser recently for me to try (they also make a face scrub and shaving cream but unfortunately these are not vegan as they contain beeswax). Their products are admittedly pricey, but as you’ll see you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Starting with the face wash, the word I would use to describe it is strong. I’ve been using it on a daily basis, but I’m quite confident you could use it on alternating days and achieve the same results. In fact when you’re applying it you’ll probably notice that your hands feel a lot cleaner and less greasy as well.

Elements Face Wash

Similarly, you only need a very tiny bit of the moisturiser each time you apply it, so squeeze with caution!

Elements Moisturiser

http://www.collinsworthltd.co.uk/

http://www.facebook.com/elementsbycollinsworth

http://www.twitter.com/menselements

Original Source

When it comes to shower gel, there’s no beating Original Source in my opinion. They have a seemingly endless array of flavours to choose from, all of which leave you feeling fresh and smelling amazing and the packaging is clear and colourful – great for OCD types like me that enjoy lining up their toiletries. And while they’re best known for their shower gels, they also make body butters, lotions & oils and hand wash, so there’s no excuse not to have some.

Original Source Shower Gels

The best part is that all their products are readily available for no more than £1.50, so you’re getting great quality at an incredibly low price.

Original Source XXX Mint Back

http://www.originalsource.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/OriginalSource.GB

http://www.twitter.com/originalsource

Superdrug

If in doubt: go to Superdrug. They do every toiletry you could ever need or want and – like Original Source – it’s all very affordable and comes with crystal clear packaging (you can always spot a Superdrug product thanks to the distinctive star logo). In fact I pretty much entirely restocked the contents of my festival washbag with their products recently.

Superdrug Aloe Vera Hand Wash

My favourite Superdrug toiletry is probably their anti-perspirant deodorant. It comes in 2 varieties (Cool or Dry), it stops you sweating as well as any deodorant I’ve ever used and it doesn’t leave that chalky white residue that some deodorants tend to leave.

Superdrug Cool Deodorant

http://www.superdrug.com

http://www.facebook.com/Superdrug

http://www.twitter.com/superdrug

What are your favourite vegan toiletry brands? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk

spiced!HQ BBQ (05/07/15)

This past Sunday, Rob, my dad and I had a rare get-together and meal for a BBQ at my dad’s house.

Ok so it wasn’t technically at spiced!HQ and it wasn’t technically a BBQ (my dad just does everything in the oven for sake of ease), but we did still have burgers outside. And that’s all that matters, right?

Speaking of which: my dad and I had a mixture of the Sainsbury’s Spicy Bean and Lenil & Spinach quarter pounders. Unfortunately these contain gluten, so Rob had to have different ones.

Lentil & Spinach Quarter PoundersSpicy Bean Quarter Pounders

Of course we also had salad…

BBQ 05-07-15 Salad

Personally I would’ve liked more lettuce (because if you didn’t already know I am a lettuce fiend) and slices of tomato rather than wedges, but that’s just personal preference, and I’m still very grateful whenever anyone cooks for me. I also should’ve brought some of my own condiments, as English mustard is an essential with burgers in my opinion. Or, at the very least, a little bit spread on the bun is very nice.

BBQ 05-07-15 BurgerAlthough I didn’t pay for them on this occasion, it’s a shame that all the cheaper veggie burger and sausage ranges – which I’ve had before and which are just as nice – aren’t vegan, as I feel I would have burgers and sausages much more often if they were. As it stands I pretty much only have them on occasions like this.

Still, the summer is far from over, so there are plenty more opportunities to have another BBQ. And perhaps next time it will actually be at spiced!HQ.

Have you had a BBQ yet this summer? If so, what did you have? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk

spiced! Changes July 2015

When I first started spiced! last May, I had a clear vision in my head about how I wanted the product to be used. I wanted it to a blank canvas; something you could experiment with and adapt to your own tastes. Because of that, I decided that I wouldn’t add chilli or salt to any of my spice pastes, and that the dry spice mix was the most important thing.

Unfortunately, based on recent feedback at Bromley Market and from discussions with Rob, it seems that this angle was not entirely clear, and that I have lost sight of what people expect when they buy a spice paste. Yes they may want to experiment with it and try it in different ways, but fundamentally people want to be able to use the paste straight out of the packet without adding anything and it taste delicious.

With all that in mind, there are some important changes coming to spiced! recipes:

Chilli

I am now open to using chilli in my recipes, and my North African paste is the first to get the chilli treatment. Speaking of which: I have also decided that I want as much control over what ingredients go into my products as possible, and so – assuming I am confident it tastes as good – I will be replacing the harissa with a combination of chilli and spices that typically go into making it, namely caraway, cayenne pepper and coriander.

Garlic

A while ago, I switched to using garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, primarily because I deemed it unfeasible to use fresh for scalability reasons. However, I have now come up with a way of being able to use fresh garlic again, which – from looking at other spice pastes on the market – is more befitting of the product.

Ingredients

As well as getting fresh garlic back into the paste, I will also be experimenting with using other ingredients in addition to dried spices to make sure you get the most flavoursome spice paste for your money. Some of them I’ve never even had myself before, so I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire. And without wanting to give too much away, there’s the added bonus that some of them will help with preservation of the spice pastes.

Salt

My spice pastes will now contain salt. As mentioned earlier, the reason I haven’t added salt up until now is because I didn’t want to decide the amount of salt in someone’s dinner for them. While I don’t advocate using extortionate amounts of salt in cooking, the reason was not – as I now fear it may have been interpreted – that the spice pastes didn’t need any seasoning. And when I do decide on the correct amount of salt to use, I will make it very clear on the blog and social media, so you know exactly how much you’re consuming.

Do you have any questions about these changes? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk

Glastonbury Festival 2015

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend my 6th Glastonbury Festival (shout-out to Emilia for getting Rob and I tickets!) So without further ado, here’s an insight into what I got up to and what food I ate…

Tuesday

The music proper may only be for a weekend, but Glastonbury is a near week-long experience. At the time I thought our 7pm Tuesday departure time was being slightly excessive and that leaving very early Wednesday morning would be sufficient as the gates don’t open until 8am. But given the huge queues we encountered on Tuesday it may have been the correct decision.

Rob and I have a pre-festival tradition of eating together, and up until he developed a gluten-intolerance it was a fry-up of some sort. Sadly Rob can’t have toast anymore, but I kept the tradition going with beans on toast served with caramelised red onion and peppers. No oil needed!

Glastonbury 2015 Fry-Up

At this stage you’re also probably wondering what food I was taking with me. In the last-minute packing rush I forgot to take pictures, but here’s a nice list you can have a look at:

  • 2.5kg Dates
  • 550g Cereal w/1l Sweetened Soya Milk
  • 400g Bourbon Creams
  • 400g Pasta w/Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • 300g Oaty Biscuits
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 6 Finger Rolls w/1/2 Veggie Burger & Ketchup

Wednesday

There is no better feeling than getting your tent set up at the start of a festival and finally being able to sit down and relax, particularly at Glastonbury when the wait to get in can be so long. After that it’s mostly a day of chilling out, meeting up with other friends and getting a reasonably early night, as there is very little in the way of entertainment either during the day or at night.

Thursday

This year was probably the best Thursday at any festival I’ve ever been to.

After a delicious bowl or two of cereal, the daytime was spent relaxing in the glorious sunshine with some friends that I haven’t seen much of lately (shout-out to Celia, Emilia (again) and Lucy!), topped off with an early evening wander through the Healing Fields (http://bit.ly/1CJrfQG).

Glastonbury 2015 Cereal

At night we all went to a very enjoyable DJ set at the Beat Hotel (http://bit.ly/1R4slCf). And what do you need when you’re dancing? Dates, of course!

Beat Hotel 2015

Friday

That list you looked at earlier may have seemed like a good amount of food, but in general Rob and I have extremely big appetites, and walking for miles and miles each day with not very much sleep only makes them bigger.

We were elated to discover, therefore, that the Hare Krishna tent was in fact serving vegan meals this year, despite us being told a couple of years ago that the food wasn’t vegan. Not only that, but it was mostly gluten-free as well!

Needless to say we queued up many times over the course of the weekend to sample the delicious food being served. The theme this year seemed to be lentils, as bags and bags of them were cooked up, and here is just one of those lentil curries.

Hare Krishna Curry 2015

Artists Seen:

  • The Cribs
  • Jungle
  • Run The Jewels
  • Sharon Van Etten
  • Hot Chip

Saturday

Apart from an amazing headline set from Jon Hopkins at my favourite stage, Saturday was most notable for my very surreal trip to the medical tent after some of my friends noticed my face had swollen up quite a lot. Thankfully it was nothing serious – a simple result of sunburn apparently – and I didn’t spend the last two days of the festival in a hospital bed.

Rob also managed to get some nice pictures of vegan signs in the Green Fields (http://bit.ly/1Nx4uoO) on his way back from Block9 (http://bit.ly/1NvWpRG) on Saturday night/Sunday morning. The ‘Why Love One But Eat The Other?’ is probably my favourite.

Life Is Too Short To Make Others Shorter

Have A Heart For Animals

Artists Seen:

  • Courtney Barnett
  • Young Fathers
  • Father John Misty
  • Death From Above 1979
  • Spiritualized
  • Jon Hopkins

Sunday

Given my poor history of rationing food at festivals, I was quite impressed with how much I’d managed to leave myself for Sunday, namely 500g of dates. The lesson I’ve learned here is that it’s a very good idea to separate your food into portions for each day if possible.

Artists Seen:

  • The Smyths
  • Lionel Richie
  • Future Islands
  • Belle And Sebastian
  • Death Cab For Cutie
  • Flying Lotus
  • Ryan Adams

Have you ever been to Glastonbury before? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk

Bromley Market (06/06/15 & 13/06/15)

In case you missed it on my Facebook or Twitter, these past two Saturdays  I’ve been trading at Bromley Market. It wasn’t my first time trading there, mind – I did one day last August. But I decided afterwards that I needed to go away and grow the business and look a lot more professional before I returned.

Heading back I was still nervous, but a lot less than before. I had some idea about what to expect and I think the comparison between spiced! last August and now is night and day. With that in mind I thought that things could only go better.

I arrived at the market in my usual incredibly early fashion, met the market inspector Mark (I somehow managed to remember his name from nearly a year ago) and was allocated my stall. Naturally I had booked the smallest stall available as I don’t need much room, but unfortunately there was no other trader sharing with me as is normally the case, which meant I had a full stall to myself. Not only was this not ideal as it would’ve been nice to have someone to talk to throughout the day, but it just looked a bit empty. And as my mum put it (she goes to Bromley every Saturday so came to see me a couple of times) my stall looked a bit lost.

In spite of these problems, my first day back went as well as I could’ve hoped for. The first two hours came and went without any sales and I was really starting to doubt myself, but towards midday things suddenly picked up, and I ending up selling 15 pots – more than double what I’d managed in 2014.  I was also a bit taken aback by how encouraging and supportive Mark and the other traders were (thanks Paul if you’re reading this!) These people have known eachother for years and years and yet I felt like I was very quickly welcomed into the community as one of them.

Unfortunately, this Saturday just gone did not go nearly as well. I only sold 9 pots, most of them in the last hour, and although this was more than I sold last year, it was significantly less than I was hoping for – especially since I had a nice new gingham tablecloth for my stall and some spiced! salsa samples to give out as well.

Markets – at least in my limited experience – are an odd thing. There’s the absolute low of standing around for long stretches of time without someone giving your stall even a cursory glance, contrasted with the absolute high of having a passionate conversation with a customer for about twenty minutes and them buying something you’ve made. They’re also unpredictable, as even the very experienced Paul and Ron at the fish stall next to me said you can never tell how the day is going to go, and at least some of that seems to be determined by the weather.

Having had some time to reflect, I’ve decided that this upcoming Saturday will probably be the last time I trade at Bromley Market. Without wanting to sound like I’m making excuses, I don’t think it’s the right audience or target market for my products. And having spoken with and gotten feedback from other stall holders and customers, I think the best course of action now is to look into dedicated food markets as well as online sales. My aim for Saturday, therefore, is to improve my stall setup (I now have two poster signs rather than one – happy days!) and to learn, and if I can do that then hopefully I will do better than this past weekend.

Have you ever sold anything at a market? And are there any markets that you visit regularly? Let me know in the comments, on the spiced! Facebook page or on Twitter @spiceduk