Monthly Archives: May 2012

Recipe Healthy Vegan Brownies

The lovely Kimberlee from the Homemade Mama has let me post her healthy vegan brownie recipe just in time for any jubilee parties over the long weekend.

It makes a great guilt free cake to take with you and it’s very healthy.

“Chocolate & beetroot go amazingly well together and I’m pretty sure you can get away with considering one of these brownies as one of your 5 a day!”

Vegan Beetroot Brownies

  • 125g Plain flour
  • 80g dark cocoa powder (or 100g melted bitter chocolate)
  • 80g Golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 75g chopped nuts of your choice (I use brazils/walnuts/hazelnuts/pecans)
  • 80ml Hazelnut milk (or soya/almond milk will do, i just love the nutella flavour hazelnut milk gives)
  • 80ml sunflower oil
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed.
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 45g grated fresh beetroot
  • 25g bitter chocolate chips or chunks
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4 & line a 28x18cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and nuts.
  3. In a separate bowl or jug mix together the hazelnut milk, oil, mashed banana and the vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture.
  5. Now add the grated beetroot and stir until just combined. The mixture will be quite thick.
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined tray & top with chocolate chunks.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.
  9. Eat them all!!

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Phantom of the Opera, Bristol Hippodrome

Amazing an audience who are by now probably over-familiar with the decades old production rife with synthesized warbling notes can’t be easy but last night the sheer perfection of the production triumphed over the familiarity of the story.

An opera house changes hands and the new owners, Monsieur Firmin & Monsieur Andre, find themselves dealing with a demanding ghost who not only wants a salary, has the prima donna’s nerves on the verge of snapping but also has a penchant for a delicate young thing, Katie Hall as Christine Daae, who he has been tutoring. The ghost, who we know to be John Owen-Jones as the phantom, also promises disaster should his tutee not gain the leading role. Things take a turn for the worse when Christine is reunited with an old love, Simon Bailey as Raoul, and her attachment to the Phantom starts weakening.

The show weaves back and forth between the productions the characters perform on stage, what goes on behind the scenes and then what goes on behind even that in the Phantom’s secret lair across a lake below the theatre. While the thought flashes by of how intriguing and creative it is to put a lake beneath a theatre, the brilliant way in which the scene was staged is just staggering.

In one scene, the transition from Christine’s changing room to the Phantom’s lair is a seamless turn of the stage and involves a magical appearance of steps out of nowhere. The warnings in the theatre about the use of flashing lights, gunshots, pyrotechnics and fire play out during the production. There is no mention of flying glass, however, so when jagged edges flew out from the chandelier, there was much relief that the glass was just a type of silicon. The shock was real.

Beautiful costumes, so vibrant and elegant and colourful and sensuous in ways that costumes shouldn’t really be sensuous but goodness me if one of the last scenes with Hall on a table and with legs around the Phantom’s waist wasn’t as steamy as Romola Garai talking about a pint of stout. That could have been why one of the patrons somewhere at the front started sobbing but no one could be quite sure.

The standing ovation in its Mexican wave fashion of starting with Hall’s appearance but climaxing with Owen-Jones’ gesturing and bow was resolutely adamant. The audience knew they had just witnessed a masterpiece in action that was so breathtaking that many of them probably didn’t wonder why Christine needed to find her freedom with a man when trying to escape a (male) monster to whom she was led by her father’s advice. Something to think about away from the mesmerizing production perhaps because it is certain that you will be too caught up by the flawless rendition which the cast and crew provide to wonder about it on the night.

Runs until June 30

Froyo at AngelBerry

AngelBerry is a new frozen yoghurt place on Broad Quay on the Harbourside. It replaces Coffee Beach which was a cafe that looked like it would have been better placed next to a bus station but which surprisingly managed to stay open for about a year.

Thank goodness for change. I am not exaggerating when I say that, second to Flinty Red on Cotham Hill, Angelberry is the best thing to ever happen in terms of food enjoyment in Bristol. There is a delicious and magical variety of flavours surrounded by choices of chocolate , more chocolate, fruit and other yummies.

The only thing that could be better than this froyo dispensary is a 24-hour bookstore combination cafe over three floors in some old but incredibly well lit building which also sells froyo in a corner somewhere and cakes by the Homemade Mama. Until then, we have froyo by the Harbourside.

The new place is a lot brighter and more spacious because there is only seating at the front half of the store and outside on the pavement.

The back half is filled with 10 frozen yoghurt (FroYo) machines and a counter full of toppings. The froyo flavours change occasionally and last week there was pina colada whereas the decidedly delicious coconut is no longer around.

The process of obtaining the precious FroYo is quite simple. You pick up a small or large tub, fill it with one or more of the FroYos, add toppings, weigh your creation and pay. There are healthy toppings like muesli and fruit, usually lots of strawberries, kiwi fruit and blueberries. There are also more indulgent treats like mini oreos, mini eggs and white minstrels.

It is all quite child-friendly and my 15-month-old daughter has visited three times with me so far and received many smiles. She gets offended by the coldness of the yoghurt, likes the marshmallows yet eschews the pobbles. Pobbles (agar jelly beads filled with fruit juice) are a big talking point but they are also heavy-ish so take care. My strategy is to fill up on marshmallows which are light but tasty.

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Things that make it even better
The FroYo is fat-free and has 1/3 of the calories of ice-cream. Remember to pick up a loyalty card because the 10th purchase (up to 200gms or £3) is free.

Angelberry is run by Ryan Pasco and James Taylor. This is the second cafe they have opened, the first is in Hartcliffe.

Angelberry, Unit 3b, Broad Quay, Bristol, BS1 4DA. www.angelberry.me, @angelberryme

Vegetarian thoughts

I was eating chicken wings the other day at work and not only did they remind me of the time I worked at a fast food restaurant on university campus but they also made me feel utterly wretched for the poor creatures who died so I could have this meal in a disposable container.

I had just been reading statistics about foot and mouth disease in animals and how an immense number of them are killed just to control the spread of it. It brought to mind the documentary I saw once about foot and mouth disease and how one of the men who had to kill lots of sheep developed PTSD. Wouldn’t you? Destroying so many souls. He said that he had killed a mother sheep and the little one was backing away and trying to escape from him. I was heartbroken eating these chicken wings at my desk at work.

I know that we don’t need meat to survive. We can find all the essential nutrients from other sources. I was raised as a meat eater but it’s hard to keep making a conscious choice to eat another creature. I can do it just fine when I don’t think about it. It’s easy and automatic.

I was thinking about all that when I came across a piece on vegfest by Fritha. She outlines how eating meat is not just a choice to bring about another creature’s death but it’s also a way of perpetuating suffering in these poor animals. I don’t want to part of that.

I am going to put a lot of effort into bringing so much amazing food into mine and Mersina’s lives so that meat just doesn’t have a place in it. I also read Ohdeardrea‘s blog and her pictures and descriptions of her vegetarian / vegan meals for her and her little girl are incredibly inspiring and just so beautiful.

Choosing this type of lifestyle feels good not only spiritually but also physically. My body doesn’t do too well with a lot of fats and meat products. I’m just going to see how it all goes for a while and enjoy the delicious and colourful foods out there.

Tonight we are having vegetables in a tomato sauce with pasta for little M and with chickpeas in a tortilla wrap for me.

1 red onion,
1 green pepper
1 courgette
a few mushrooms for the sauce
a few raw mushrooms to add later
1 tin of chick peas
1 clove of garlic
1 carton of passata
olive oil

Chop onion roughly, slice courgette and green pepper, chop up half the mushrooms and slice the garlic thinly. Add all these to a frying pan and saute with olive oil until softened and slightly browned. Add garlic towards the end of the frying process as it burns easily then add the tomato passata, some water and a dash of salt. Cover and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Once the sauce is thickened it is ready.

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I’m going to keep looking for inspiration in places like pinterest and other websites with vegetarian recipes. Please send me any recipes you think I might like. I asked about soy bechamel the other day on Twitter and some lovely people sent me links with great recipes including silken tofu so I am going to pop by the Chinese supermarket tomorrow and get some.

Are we really at that stage?

I’m in the library, that lovely one designed by Charles Holden, and am about to start reading a book on potty training. As soon as I finish playing with this Duplo train set.

I’m not sure we are at potty training stage yet (at 15 months, M seems a little young) but twice now she has asked her father and me to change her nappy for her.

On two separate occasions, she beckoned each of us to the bedroom and lay on the bed indicating nappy change time.

So let’s start thinking about it if nothing else.

Sunny weekend

This past weekend has been simply glorious and not only because of the lovely weather. Mersina and I spent as much time as possible outside, either in the sunshine or at the library or at Explore @Bristol. There is little pleasure in staying indoors when there is a breeze and a park and frozen yoghurt and daisies and daddy somewhere outside.

Among the fields surrounding Bristol Cathedral

Scrunching leaves

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On Saturday I was out on my own for a few hours and felt strangely like a normal adult for a while. I attended an outrageous dinner of warm Vienetta and flung bread sticks for Magna Mysteria. On my way to a final performance I stopped off at Obento for two temaki, one California temaki and one tempura prawn and avocado, washed down with a glass of plum wine. The Magna Mysteria showdown was at a circus tent next to Bristol Temple Meads but the highlight was a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout behind the station at the Barley Mow.

Dinner with the Morrelini Sisters

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Some people were standing outside a new bar while wearing lampshades.

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We spent a lot of Saturday at the library where we first took part in rhymetime and then little M had fun colouring in, reading books, drawing and borrowing.

Mersina colouring in at the library

Playing with a puzzle at the library

We recently became members of Explore at Bristol although we have yet to venture into the sciency bit. We usually stick to the soft-play area and the cafe. Here’s Mersina enjoying her playing time.

Mersina about to jump on the doggy

Mersina immobilising the pup

Looking around for her next victim

We also had a brief shoe shuffle montage going on but ultimately she spent most of her time being a hippy with bare feet and flowing dress.

On Sunday we spent time at Millennium Square and splashed in fountains and water features. Once M had a bit of a nap we accompanied her daddy to the Watershed where he wrote things and Mersina did lots of running around, exploring and climbing.

Mersina with daddy's hat

Magna Mysteria

This time last year we had just finished a two week project called Fortnight. I waxed lyrical then about what was essentially a love affair with the city and was eager to join the new adventure when contacted by Mayfest.

Instead of Fortnight, there was a new interactive and immersive piece called Magna Mysteria by team Mercurial Wrestler which consists of Becca Gill and Jay Kerry. The two were funded as Theatre artists in residence by the Pervasive Media Studios. Their aim, to “create a unique form of immersive audience led performance, inspired by the pervasive nature of the media around us and the ability to make the impossible possible.”

There were four encounters between the performance and the punters. A wagon in front of the old Vic, the Siren in some old public toilets, a dinner meant to be bizarre and a final showdown at a circus tent by the train station.

It started with a policeman with a cough and a short speech. Then inside the wagon which was rumoured to have a grandfather clock beating to the rhythm of a human heart I found myself drifting off. The drama was lacking in cohesion and inaudible but there was something about the Magician. I was to select a card and place it on the table to my right but it was to my left and it took me ages to figure out where to find the card.

Then there was the Siren who I didn’t see and maybe that’s not a bad thing because to paraphrase Bette Middler “Honey, I don’t do performances in public toilets anymore”, even old beautiful public toilets on Woodland Road. I showed up while holding a baby on one hip and was told the siren won’t see any children. We left and I couldn’t make it back.

I was utterly sad that I missed the dinner with the Morrelini Sisters and then was unimpressed and annoyed when I managed to attend the following evening. The performance was impressively designed and staged but ultimately seemed a bit lacking in direction.

I was promised a personalised narrative throughout this journey and there was nothing of the sort unless you count distributing tarot cards by star sign and then making people change seats.

It was the pointlessness that annoyed me the most. There has to be more to a production than an interesting use of make-up and stage scenery. A storyline was alluded to with mentions of the Magician but it was done in a similar style to the depth of characters in a Mills&Boon book (no offense to M&B).

The worst part was the culmination of what was meant to be the most exciting showdown Bristol had ever seen. Instead it was again an event that was disparate and pointless. Everyone gathered in a circus tent. All participant names were written out in a circle around the room and we all went and stood by them. We were then told to gather in to the middle of the room again.

Then individual participants received phone calls and were told what lines to speak out to present part of the narrative. A shame that the person doing the telling could be heard at the back of the tent. I don’t know what they were saying because of all the distractions.

We were then told to listen to the individualised 20min mp3 recordings (according to tarot cards) and congregate with others who had the same. At least I think that’s what we were meant to do. No one really had much of an idea and we couldn’t hear the recordings either. It was 20 minutes of pointless wandering about. When the time was up we were told to go outside and some other woman led us somewhere.

My friend and I went to the pub instead. It was the best part of the whole Magna Mysteria.

I didn’t understand the point of the story or the sequence of events. There was little that was personal to me and there was little that provided any type of narrative journey. It was a disappointment and not only because of the delayed communications and the promises that didn’t deliver. It could have been amazing but they didn’t figure out how in the last two years and I don’t know how because no part of me can even imagine what they were trying to achieve.