Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

The juice championships

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Here are the competitors: two juicers that work in different ways. On the left is Le Duo from Magimix, my old centrifugal juicer that’s still going strong after ten years. On the right is the new arrival, the Champion 2000+, a classic masticating juicer made in California.

Juicers

So why have I bought a new juicer when the old one still works? Mainly because I’ve read so many positive reviews of masticating juicers generally, but especially of the Champion. It’s said to produce more juice of higher nutritional value because it generates very little heat and doesn’t damage the cell walls of the ingredients. (This site gives more information about how the two types of juicer work).

I’m not equipped to measure the vitamins in my juice, but I decided to compare the two machines according to various criteria, starting with:

Size
The Magimix would obviously be more suitable for a small kitchen as it takes up only half the space of its rival on a worktop or in a cupboard. Of course if you put it away, you’re less likely to use it regularly…

Ease of use
Similar for both machines. You do have to cut the ingredients into quite slim slices to fit them into the funnel. Even a fat carrot can get stuck.

The Champion has the advantage if you want to make a lot of juice in one go because the pulp is pushed out continuously. With the Magimix, the pulp is retained inside the machine, which needs to be cleaned every now and again to keep it running smoothly.

Yield
The main sales argument for the Champion is that it makes a lot more juice than a centrifugal machine. To reassure myself I hadn’t wasted my money, I made the same juice in both, using exactly the same weight of the same ingredients: 250g of apples and 250g of carrots. This is a particularly quick and easy combination. I obtained 300ml of juice from the Magimix and 350ml from the Champion – 12.5% more. I can see this difference would be significant if I were making juice in industrial quantities, but it hardly shows in a glass:

Jus x 2A

The juice from the Champion, on the right, is thicker and smoother. Some people may prefer to thin it down with water. The juice from the Magimix soon throws a slight deposit, which can easily be stirred in.

Safety
Obviously you should unplug the machine as soon as it stops running, and use the pusher to force ingredients into the funnel rather than your fingers… A clear message in red type on the Champion reminds you about this.

Even so, two other dangers ought to be mentioned. The cutting blades of the Champion are only just inside the hole where the pulp comes out. It would be far easier for tiny fingers to explore this opening than to poke around in the funnel higher up. The Magimix, on the other hand, has a nasty habit of suddenly starting to bounce around on the work surface when the amount of pulp inside has built up somewhat (the first time this happened, it gave me quite a shock!), and it could easily fall off if close to the edge… It’s another reason never to leave a machine of this kind running unattended.

The pulp
Pictures speak louder than words:

Pulp

It’s not just that the Champion produces less pulp, but it’s really well ground up and compacted so it takes up less space.

The pulp from the Champion, on the right, is ready to be used in recipes for biscuits, cakes, vegetable fritters and so on.

Ease of cleaning
Both machines are easy to clean as long as you do this straight away after making the juice. I prefer to put the juice in the fridge while I rinse the parts under a warm tap (washing-up liquid is seldom necessary), even if this means waving goodbye to a few vitamins. You soon get the knack of using a brush and small sponge to clean out the waste.

Which only leaves the little matter of:

Cost
Prices vary, but on the whole masticating juicers cost two to three times as much as the centrifugal kind. Are they worth it? For the moment I’d say yes, but there are lots of issues to consider and the answer may not be the same for everyone.

Is it vegan to own cats?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Here are two of the four reasons why I’ll only ever be an aspiring vegan:

Calico+Sesame_comp

Calico (left) and Sesame are no longer quite as young as they were when this picture was taken, but they’re still just as gorgeous.

Jeton4

The third reason, on the right, is called Jeton. Aged two, he’s the cuddliest cat imaginable. The picture below shows reason number four, Cressida, the most recent arrival and not yet one year old. She’s such a keen hunter that she could have been called Diana or Artemis… There’d be no point buying this feline family tins of vegan catfood – they know the "real thing" is freely available outside.

 
Cressida

Now apparently true vegans don’t believe in exploiting animals in any way, and that includes pet ownership. I understand and respect this point of view, but I’ve always had cats and I’d find it very hard to live without them.

On the face of it, there’s no reason to feel sorry for our cats. They come and go as they please, with the freedom to explore a large garden and much further afield. Yes, but… they’ve been neutered, they’re vaccinated and fed regularly, so they don’t have the same kind of freedom as a cat born in the wild, even though the latter is bound to lead a more hazardous and often less comfortable life.

Anyway, thanks to Sandrine of the Végébon blog, who had the great idea of collecting links to pictures of other bloggers’ cats in this post. I look forward to seeing your cats, and/or reading your views on whether "proper" vegans should own them…

More tasty plant milks

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Plant milks have been flowing freely in my kitchen this week, all different but all equally delicious.

I’ve used the new Soyabella every day to make another sort of milk. After the almond milk, there followed (in no particular order):

– pumpkin seed milk (smooth and the palest of pale greens)
– sunflower seed milk (mild and subtle)
– pistachio milk (creamy and flavourful)
– walnut milk (delicate, less taste of the nut than I expected)
– hazelnut milk (very aromatic, Italy in a glass…)

I’d be hard pressed to say which one I liked best, and there are loads more to try as yet. Even the resident omnivore, who’s pretty much addicted to cow juice, enjoyed them. The cats, on the other hand, were not fooled.

One result of all this activity has been the production of large quantities of okara, the residue left in the filter, and I admit that some has found its way into the little compost waste bin under the sink. Partly through lack of time, but also because there’s a limit to the amount of fibre (of which okara contains a lot) that two people who already get through plenty of fruit and veg can eat without digestive side-effects…

Even so, every day some of the okara left over from milk-making made a contribution to our meals:

– biscuits to which – in the excitement of using my first okara – I completely forgot to add the sugar. Apparently they taste fine with cheese…

– in a cauliflower and pumpkin soup (the last of the 2009 pumpkins!).

– spread on bread and sprinkled with gomasio for a simple snack.

– dried on a pan on top of the radiator (which shouldn’t be on in May, as I’m sure you’ll agree), to add some crunch to breakfast cereals.

– added to the stuffing for the little Japanese-style parcels I make with rice paper (but I need to work on the recipe).

– mixed with some leftover dal to make croquettes (lovely – one to test again soon).

Finally, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up during the past week:

1. It’s important to keep the top of the machine upright when taking it out of the jug or you could damage the blade or the inside of the jug.

2. My first okaras turned out quite wet, and I found it worthwhile pressing the mixture against the sides of the filter to extract all the milk after leaving it to stand for a few minutes. You could also strain it through muslin, but that makes more washing up.

3. It’s a lot easier to clean the jug and filter if you do it straight away.

4. Label the okara before putting it in the fridge. After a day or two, they all tend to look the same… in any case, it’s best not to leave them sitting there any longer than that.

My beautiful Soyabella

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I’ve finally done it: after several months of dithering and faffing about, I’ve bought a Soyabella to make plant milks at home.

It took me a while to make up my mind, even though I’d found nothing but positive comments about this particular machine on other blogs. At 149 euros it wasn’t cheap, and I didn’t want to clutter up my kitchen with a gadget that would spend most of its time at the back of a cupboard.

Then I had to check that I could get organic soya beans grown in France – there didn’t seem much point giving up pre-packaged soya milk if I was going to be buying soya beans imported from China or the States. Luckily my local organic shop stocks a hulled, split variety.

I was also eager to try other home-made plant milks, like those made from oats, almonds, rice and hazelnuts. All the ones I’ve found in the shops seem to have had something added – salt, sugar, oil – which I felt gave them a quite unpleasant taste.

The first thing I noticed about the Soyabella is that it’s a really good-looking machine with its shapely jug made of brushed stainless steel.

Soyabella

It’s also very easy to use. The instructions were clear and Virginie gives some helpful extra tips in this post.

I started by making almond milk, having recently bought a supply of whole organic almonds with milk in mind. First you have to soak the nuts in water for several hours; I simply left them soaking overnight and made the milk next morning. After that, the procedure is ultra-fast: put some water in the jug, the nuts in the filter and press the "Mill" button a few times. I did this five times (about ten seconds each), which was how long it took for the motor to stop labouring as it encountered bits of unground nut and to start whirring smoothly.
 

My verdict: almond milk is a delicacy that deserves to be appreciated outside the rather restricted circles of vegans and people with dairy allergies. I loved it just on its own and with my morning muesli. What’s more, making this (like all plant milks) leaves a residue known as okara which can be used in lots of other recipes.

Lait d'amande + okara

My first attempt at soya milk, on the other hand, was disappointing. Making it was just as easy – it took a bit longer than the almond milk because the beans have to be heated – but I wasn’t at all keen on the taste. While I can wolf down a litre of my usual soya milk (also made from just water and beans) simply because I love the stuff, I found this one rather uninteresting, with a slightly bitter aftertaste into the bargain.

I don’t blame the Soyabella. I’ll have to try and find another brand of soya bean, or perhaps I’ll just switch to different plant milks.

The Soyabella has other qualities: it can grind coffee, and grain for flour, make stock and soup… and then I already have a list of ideas for using up the okara that I’ll be trying over the next few weeks.

Lively leaven

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Right, this leaven… or rather these leavens as I’ve had several since I started making sourdough bread. Maybe that’s why I’ve never given any of them a name, unlike some bloggers.

The basic idea is simple : you mix flour and water (plus, depending on the recipe, a few raisins or some pineapple juice), and five or six days later the leaven is full of bubbles and raring to go.

Seth teased me : "But it’s a living thing! How can it be vegan?"

He didn’t let that spoil his enjoyment of the bread…

In theory at least, if you don’t make bread every day you can keep the leaven in the fridge for a few days, even several weeks. Two days before you want to use it, you take it out and start feeding it again with flour and water.

But that was the problem: my leavens had slumped into a hypothermic torpor and had no wish to be brought back to life. I was left with a grey sticky mass that smelled strongly of nail varnish remover: definitely an ex-leaven. Intimidated, I gave it less and less food so as not to overload its delicate digestion.

Then one day I decided to try something different. I kept just two tablespoons of the gloop and added 100 g (4 oz) of flour and 100 g of water.

To my surprise, a miracle took place. A few hours later, the leaven was bubbling away merrily. I’d been treating it like an invalid with no appetite when it was actually a strapping lad desperate for some hearty nosh.

Levain

That same leaven has stayed healthy for several months. It may even deserve a name: Lazarus perhaps?

Recipe for a vegan blog

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Roughly chop some php files and fry them in the WordPress Dashboard. Add a good-sized chunk of html, sliced thinly. Sprinkle with questions to the help forums.

Leave to simmer for three weeks, stirring from time to time.

Garnish with a pinch of crispy pixels and serve hot, and slightly late, to celebrate World Vegan Day.

I was planning to tell you rather more about World Vegan Day before I got bogged down in tweaking themes…

But there’s still time, because today is only the start of World Vegan Month. I’ll be back soon with more musings, some real recipes and not another word, I promise, about computer languages.