Vegan Liver Pâté: Better Than It Sounds

Christmas is now almost at its end, with just two more days of my holiday left. Most of it has been spent with Jo’s mum in the north of Sweden, doing as little as possible and trying to relax. Thankfully we were in a perfect place to take it easy. Few distractions and a few days of minus twenty degrees saw to it that I spent many an hour either film watching, playing the ukulele or reading.

There is a downside to this luxurious living. In fact, there are a few. Like having no internet connection and a lousy, painstakingly slow 3G connection. Or having to wash dishes in the bathtub. Or having the nearest shop be fifteen kilometres away. Inconveniences that, had we stayed there for a longer period, would have become major points of irritation. As it was, they were bearable problems.

Of the presents that were received or given, my favourite ones are the cookbooks: three in total. I got A Vegan Taste of East Africa and Chloe’s Kitchen, both of which I had asked for. The East Africa cookbook does not look so inspiring, with many recipes using the same five or six ingredients. I am, however, hopeful that some good can come of it. Just because the ingredients are simple does not necessarily mean the recipes will be bland. Chloe’s Kitchen is more appealing from the start, offering slightly more complex recipes, like jalapeño cornbread poppers with whipped maple butter or eggplant timbales. All of which brings me to the actual point of this entry.

Jo tried a recipe for vegan liver pâté whilst we were there. A recipe that she had found on who, in its turn, had found it from a cookbook dating back to the beginning of the forties, where wartime rationing led to some inventive usage of available goods. While the list of ingredients does not sound inspiring, the end result was fantastic: a mild tasting pâté set off by the pungent yeast (we used 50g, but for the next attempt I think we will use 25-30g, for no other reason than to compare).

5dl oat milk
75g melted margarine
2dl rolled oats
1dl breadcrumbs
1dl fresh parsley
1dl chopped onion
30-50g fresh yeast
1tbsp soya sauce
¼-½ vegetable bouillon cube
½-1tsp dried marjoram
2ml ground cloves
salt (possibly)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and let it stand for a few minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Mix with a hand mixer to a smooth consistency. Pour the mixture into an oiled bread pan. Bake for one hour at 175 degrees.

Both Jo and I love the taste, whilst the girls may need a little more convincing (less yeast, maybe?). Hopefully in the near future we can do away with the pricy Tartex spreads that the girls like so much.

State Of The (Vegan) Nation

Over the last couple of years in Sweden, the interest for vegan food has flourished. The vegan shop Goodstore open in 2006, but it took quite a few years after its opening until we saw restaurants offering vegan alternatives. Now we have two pizzerias within a short driving distance that have seperate vegan menus. And we are not talking about simple vegetarian pizzas without cheese: salami, chicken, kebab, bacon, and garlic sauce are amongst the ingredients (just one of the places has seventeen vegan pizzas alone).

While the number of vegan friendly restaurants increases, the true sign of veganism’s popularity is the introduction over the last twelve months of two vegan cooking magazines. Britain, with its population of more than six times that of Sweden, has (I belive) two vegetarian mags. Vegan is a fashionable word here.

Our own personal collection of vegan cookbooks has subsequently increased in number and quality. We have three or four books to which we regularly refer, along with the two magazines, Vego and Vegourmet. If they were not enough, the internet (in particular, Pinterest) gives me so many ideas and so much inspiration that I do not have time to attempt all the recipes I want to.

I read somwhere that the average number of recipes used from any one cookbook is about six. Since gaining this information, correct or otherwise, I see my cookbooks in a different light. I now want to attempt as many recipes as possible from the books that we own. I would be happy with a fifty percent ratio.

Of course, it helps to have cookbooks that appeal, or have ingredients that are readily available, or that contain recipes that are actually worth the effort. I have been constantly disappointed by the amount of time I put into some recipes that don’t taste worthy of the time invested in making them. I want my food to be of a standard one would find in restaurants. The problem, of course, is that it rarely is.

There are certain styles of cuisine that can be emulated quite well in the home environment compared to the restaurant equivalent. Thai and sushi can be attempted without too much loss in taste, even if there are dining places that excell in those fields. Copying Britsh curry house curries is far more difficult, but I have found one or two sites having interesting Indian cuisine recipes that can be worth the time.

My quest will continue to find a stock of thirty or so (a month’s worth) standard child friendly, good quality, simple recipes to rely on. After trying several methods, I can make a good tomato sauce, one which I would be happy to receive in a restaurant. Rice-noodle stir fry with a hoisin sauce works well with the children, as does a potato gratin I am working on (from the Vego book). Many burgers have been attempted, and I will be happy when I find an above average one, as well as an agreeable marinade for grilled soya meat.

The biggest hurdle is time, but I feel well on the way. Just no more vegan magazines, please.

The weekend Before The Weekend Before Christmas

It has been an eventful sixty hours. Some activity was expected, some was unwanted. It started on Friday.

It was, of course, Saint Lucia Day in Sweden, and one of the days I least look forward to. Working in a preschool on this day has the tendency to stress and tire me out. The logistics of such a day, from receiving porridge for lunch (gröt is a dessert, catering firm, not a main meal) to shortened lunch breaks, hurried snacks, chaos as the children get ready to go to the sports hall where the Lucia songs are sung, stress to get there and get dressed in time, and discomfort in the aftermath of the performence at spending time with running children and many, many relatives of the children.

I survived, though, despite working overtime, and finally made my way home. Outside the front door I met Jo and Zelda, who were going to a birthday party. I offered to go instead of Jo. Although I did not wish to spend any more time with parents, I knew them better than Jo, and it meant that she could get back to see a friend who had crashed at ours after some minor problem at home. And then, just as Zelda was handed over, we met our neighbours coming out of the lift.

I asked them how they were, expecting a cursory “fine”, only to be told that it was not “fine”, and that their eldest duaghter was going to the hospital to have a tumour operated on. As I was being told this bomb of information, a group of women came through the front door and bypassed us to get into the lift. The news went in, but I found it difficult to find a respone. I was already tired from the day, slighty put out by the change of plans with Zelda, confused further by the sudden entrance of four ladies, and somewhat stunned by the words I was hearing. I managed to blurt out a “ring if there is anything we can do”, and we went our seperate ways.

After the two hour party, I came home to see our friend, who was extremely vocal about the Raspberry pie computers he had in his bag (it does look like an interesting project and something I may look into after Christmas).

The next day was filled with shopping, doing a kladdventskalender and then, in the evening, going to Gröna Lund to partake in the vegan julbord they have there. We went last year with some friends (Nina, Daniel, Alvar and Nika to be exact), enjoying the atmosphere of a very well put together event. It was similar food to last year, and I must say that it wasn’t that impressive. A lot of the food is processed stuff we can buy from our local vegan supermarket, Goodstore. It also took a long time for our food to come and the service was not all that good. That said, the food was only a small part of the whole evening, but none the less important. The children all had a wonderful time, being able to walk around outside. They spent a long time at one of the carnival games (throwing balls into bins), where they found out that the girl behind the attraction was also vegan. We went home late and Zelda did her usual thing of falling asleep a few seconds after asking if she could do so, on the tram home.

Sunday was slightly more relaxed, with the family helping Jo in her kladdventskalender quest. Afterwards we bought bagels from Bagel Street Café, came home so the girls could have a play date with Alvar and Nika, watched a Sunday night film and met the neighbours, who had just come back from the hospital. All went well, but the next few months are a waiting game to see what happens to the tumour.

I woke up this morning not feeling well. I had been feeling rough for a week or so, and the weekend is paying its toll.

Back For A While

Over a year ago I wrote what I thought was to be the last post of the blog. My interest in keeping an online diary had waned and I did not feel as if I could write what I truly wanted to. Simply put, I felt censured by the eternity of posting something on the internet. I also felt as if time was against me, and putting effort into this site was stealing time away from my free time: family, writing school books, playing games, watching films and TV series. The list of alternatives to blogging goes on, but collectively these activities are called life.

We recently received an email from Jack, whose company hosts this blog, asking us what we wanted to do with it. I had originally considered saving a pdf of the posts I’d written, then closing down the site. I am now reconsidering this option. Jo wishes I would continue to write, and Freya has just recently expressed an interest in having a blog to noted down her adventures in Star Stable, an online game she has been playing for over six months now. While I am unsure she knows what she wants the purpose of the blog is to be, it may be wise to develop her interest in technology and writing. So the blog remains.

The question is, though, what I shall do with my decision to keep this site alive. When I take a cursory look at the last year without blogging, I realise there is a lot (and I mean a lot) that has occured, much of which is worth digitalising for the future. It would be a fantastic memory for the family to revive my scribblings. We shall see what becomes of

For the moment, anyway, I am back.

Mission To Halden

This morning I was tired, more than I have been in a considerable time. This fatigue is not due to partying, for which I am glad, though it is due to a certain lack of sleep. Mostly, however, a journey to Norway is to blame.

Our friend Nina went to the vegetarian fare in Halden, to show her vegan shoes, and our family decided to follow, knowing from previous experience that it would be a sterling weekend. Normally on these occasions, Jo helps out behind the counter and I, along with Nina’s husband, Daniel, look after the children and generally have a good time. And so it was to be this time, too.

We set off after work at four o’clock on Friday afternoon; Our hired van was a new Mercedes Vito, spacious and rather pleasant; Our destination was Halden, a tourist town in the south west of Norway, just over the border from Sweden.

Our journey went well, with the exception of Freya gaining a companion in the form of a tick. How she noticed, I do not know, since the tick had found its home in her armpit, and had not long resided there. We soon put an end to its free ride by stopping at a roadside petrol station and borrowing a pair of tweezers. One tick free armpit later, we were once again bound to Norway, arriving at our hotel a little before midnight.

I did not sleep well. I don’t know how much the stuffiness and temperature of the room played a part, but I missed a few hours of sleep that would have given me the rest I wanted. Saying that, it did not affect me, and our early morning, fuelled by a hotel breakfast, began well. Nina and Jo took the van to the festival, whilst we walked the reasonably short distance through town and up, up, up to the fort where the event was to take place. The town itself is quite charming, especially viewed from the fortifications.

The fort was not what I had imagined it to be. It was much, much bigger and covered a huge area. The various views that were offered from the many vantage points were incredible, and kept us entertained for a good portion of the day, whilst Nina and Jo were busy selling there wares inside a badly lit dungeon cell. When I first saw the position they had, I was quite angry: outside, the weather was showing no signs of being near the end of summer, and the many food stalls surely benefited, whilst I thought only a minority of tourists were going inside. Despite my negativity, many of those were spending time looking and buying shoes.

The overall event as quite well put together. It was difficult to guage how many visitors to the fort were there solely because of the festival, and I am inclined to think that a positive thing. Veggie fares held indoors attract the already converted, whilst this one blended into a well visited tourist attraction. Regardless the event attendance, Nina’s sales were not far behind a veggie fare in Oslo last year. I cannot speak for Nina, but she must have considered the day a success.

We left the fare in the early evening. The children, as we adults, had a fantastic day out, even if it took twelve hours plus travelling time there and back. We are hoping that the organisers share our opinion of the day, and a trip to Halden is on the cards next year.