Gloucestershire Vegan Group brightened up a misty winter evening with a bring-and-share meal in Cheltenham. We have several of these meals during the year – where everyone brings along a dish of their choice. There is often is a real diversity of food at our events, reflecting the different cultures and tastes of the group, and showcasing the huge range of flavours and cuisines that vegan cooking encompasses.
At our group meals I often hear people expressing delight that they can eat any of the food on the table. Perhaps many of us are used to having to navigate our way around everyday social occasions, having to check with hosts about whether this or that food is suitable. An all-vegan get-together is a refreshing break from this inconvenience.
It was great to see lots of new faces at this event, and especially to meet vegans of all ages (from 17 to 80-odd!) and from all corners of Gloucestershire. Our events are open to anyone who is vegan or interested in veganism.
We chatted about what experiences led us to choose to be vegan or piqued our interest in veganism. Some became vegan overnight, after watching films exposing the realities of animal farming, others became vegan gradually, removing one animal-produced item from their lives at a time. We heard from some who were inspired to go vegan by a positive example set by friends/ acquaintances, who were already vegan and made it seem like a good choice.We also shared a little of our life-histories, and talked about how family and friends viewed veganism. There were some amongst us who had been vegan for over 20 years, some just a few months, and some who – though not vegan themselves – were interested or supportive.
Later our lovely hosts made a fresh berry ice-cream in their blender, which was a perfect accompaniment the puddings that had been contributed to the evening – home-made chocolate brownies and tarte tatin.
Here are some recipes, shared from the evening:
Spanakopita is a Greek spinach pie, traditionally made with feta cheese, but it can easily be adapted to be suitable for vegans. This can be made in a twelve inch diameter springform pan, or in any other similar sized baking dish.
For the pie crust:
2 packs of filo pastry
For the creamy layers:
1/2 cup cashew nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 pack firm tofu
1 tbsp dried basil
1 clove garlic
For the spinach layers:
3 cups cooked and drained spinach – fresh or frozen
1 medium sized potato, diced and boiled until soft
3/4 cup toasted flaked almonds
2 tbsp fresh dill chopped
1 cup parsley chopped
6 spring onions chopped
6 shallots chopped finely and fried until golden
2 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C. Blend the cashews, oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice until a smooth paste forms.
2. Add the tofu and blend until creamy, then stir in the basil
3. In a large mixing bowl, stir all of the spinach filling ingredients together and season with salt and pepper
4. Brush your pan with olive oil and layer with 6 sheets of filo, taking care to brush oil over each sheet as you add it
5. Add half of the spinach mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly
6. Add half the cashew-tofu mixture on top of the spinach and spread evenly
7. Now place 4 layers of filo pastry on top, brushing each sheet with olive oil
8. Repeat steps 5 & 6 using the remaining spinach and cashew mixture to form another two layers
9. Top with 6 more sheets of filo pastry, brushing each with oil, and fold in the edges of the sheets from the lower layers.
10. Bake for 35 mins at 170 degrees C, or until the top of the pie is deeply golden and crispy.
1/2 cup vegan margerine
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
3 star anise stars
1 pack of flaky pastry
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1. Heat the margarine, sugar, cinnamon, star anise and vanilla in a large baking pan on a hob
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, and stir until it forms a thick syrup
3. Pop the apple slices in the syrup
4. Top with a sheet of flaky pastry
5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for approx 25 mins
6. Remove from the oven, put a plate on top of the pan and turn the whole thing over very quickly, so that the syrup doesn’t have a chance to seep out from the sides and burn you!