Learn the art of vegan cheese-making in Gloucestershire

In a previous post we mentioned Asparagasm (www.asparagasm.com), the vegan and gluten-free deli and diner in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire (a small town about 50 miles from Oxford). As well as fine dining extravaganzas, pop-ups, and private catering, Asparagasm now offers workshops. Lucy Longrigg, Asparagasm’s resident vegan cheese maker, writes:

“The interest and demand for plant-based cheeses is ever growing, and happily this is an area of expertise at Asparagasm. We run half-day workshops where aspiring cheese enthusiasts can learn the tricks of the trade, either at our state of the art teaching kitchen in the Cotswolds, or anywhere that I can plug in a blender! These events are gathering quite a following amongst vegan and v-curious communities, attracting visitors from London and even Portugal!

Using only simple ingredients and natural techniques, students learn about the fermentation processes involved in vegan cheese making, and once they have developed the necessary skills, students are then able to experiment with creating their own flavours. Classes are kept small and friendly to ensure quality, and all ingredients, course materials, welcome drink, lunch, tastings and cheeses to take home are included.

As well as all things cheesy, Head Chef Lauren, who has just returned from training with Matthew Kenney* in California, is also offering a packed teaching programme. Upcoming classes include heavenly Chocolate Masterclasses, as well as bespoke private lessons, where you can learn how to make all sorts of wonderful food.

For further information, visit the Asparagasm Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Asparagasm), or pop in for a chat!”

[* Matthew Kenney is an American celebrity chef, entrepreneur, author of a dozen cookbooks, and educator specializing in plant-based cuisine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Kenney). Photo by Joanna Fallon (http://thecotswoldchalkboard.co.uk/).]

Stalls at the Oxford Vegan Festival

Paul Freestone’s picture below shows stalls at the Oxford Vegan Festival, held at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, on Saturday 25 March 2017.

Oxford Vegan Festival, Kassam Stadium, Saturday 25 March, 10.30-17.00

Farplace vegan festivals will host its first Oxford Vegan Festival at the Kassam Stadium Conference and Events Centre (the home of Oxford United Football Club) on the 25th of March 10:30-5pm. We expect over 2,000 vegans, veggies and veggie curious foodies to engage with the 120 stalls we have booked up who are ready to educate, inspire and feed the thousands.

11.00am-12noon – Mary Shephard, Deputy Director of Animal Aid – Title TBC
12 noon-1.00pm – Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust – BADGERED TO DEATH, the catastrophic handling of Bovine TB by the British Government
1.00-2.00pm – Paul Freestone – The Future of Food (why the current methods of food production, especially meat, fish & dairy, are totally unsustainable)
2.00-3.00pm – Natalia Doran of Urban Squirrels – DISPELLING THE MYTH OF THE EVIL GREY SQUIRREL
3.00-4.00pm – Paul Freestone – Animal Testing (a thorough examination of vivisection which shows all the arguments for and against, but clearly argues the ethical case to stop all forms of animal testing)

Cookery demos and films:
11.00-11.30am – Bayo Amisu from Flavours of Africa – SIMPLE VEGAN AFRICAN COOKING
11.35am-12.20pm – Film: The Witness (How does a construction contractor from a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood become an impassioned animal advocate? The film has been an official selection in 32 film festivals where it has received eight awards for Best Documentary and two for Best of Festival.)
12.30-2.30pm – Four cookery demos by Food For A Future
– 12.30pm – The Secrets of Tofu
– 1.00pm – Vegan Mac N Cheese 3 ways
– 1.30pm – Simple Soft Vegan Cheese
– 2.00pm – Sticky Toffee Pudding
2.35pm – Film: Cowspiracy, The Sustainability Secret (a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to talk about it.)

Admission £3, children free. Details at: http://www.oxfordveganfestival.com/

Rachael Enright, Vegan Events Manager, Farplace Animal Rescue (http://www.farplace.co.uk)

Nitin Mehta meets Joanna Lumley

President of Young Indian Vegetarians and OxVeg supporter Nitin Mehta presented celebrity vegetarian and animal rights activist Joanna Lumley with a copy of his book India: A civilisation the world fails to recognise at a recent book launch in London. Joanna told Nitin that she is going to India soon to record a travel documentary and the book will be of great interest to her. Readers can buy a copy of Nitin’s book through Amazon and other online booksellers.

Paul Appleby

10-a-day is even better than 5-a-day

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day confers even greater benefits to health than the 5 portions per day recommended by the World Health Organisation. A portion of fruit or vegetables weighs 80 grams (3 oz) – the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas. All kinds of beans and pulses such as kidney beans and lentils also count as a portion of vegetables.

After pooling dietary data from 95 separate studies, including two million people, the researchers found that compared with people who consume no fruit and vegetables:
· 200g (2½ portions) of fruit and vegetables cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g (10 portions) cut the risk by 28%
· 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
· 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%.

In the UK, only around one in three people meet the 5 portions per day target. One person who comfortably meets the target is 24-year old vegan Heather Saunders from Oxford, featured in an article describing the results of the study on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39057146). We are told that Heather eats “two pieces of fruit with breakfast, a ‘massive pot’ of roasted vegetables at lunch and then at least four vegetables in curries or chillies in the evening.” Her advice to anyone trying to increase their fruit and vegetable intake is “to have one or two meat-free days a week”. Better still, why not follow Heather’s example and have seven animal food-free days per week.

Paul Appleby

Vegan café in Woodstock

Plants & Pilates (www.plantsandpilates.uk) is a vegan café in Woodstock where all the food served is freshly prepared and free from animal products, refined sugar, oil, GMOs and other additives, and much of it is organic. The café is open from 8.30am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 2pm Saturday, and can be found at 5 Park Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SJ. The Plants & Pilates philosophy is to eat a plant-based diet and engage in Mind Body exercise, such as pilates and yoga. Conveniently, there is a boutique yoga studio next door.

Naz of Plants & Pilates writes:

Tucked away in the dreamy courtyard of Garret House in Woodstock, near the Church, you’ll find Plants & Pilates; a little eatery, smoothie and tea bar I opened in September 2016 with the encouragement of a few people desperate for real food that was really good for them. My mission was simply to help people feel and look better than ever before, through eating nourishing foods.

In 2015, having suffered with undiagnosed health problems that usually left me feeling completely exhausted for no obvious reason, I decided something had to be done. As a devout carnivore, going vegan wasn’t the most obvious choice. But, I was desperate to feel better and had nothing to lose. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

Within a few weeks, I had more energy and clarity than ever before and felt more comfortable in my skin. It baffled me that it had taken me so long to see my food as such powerful fuel. Why had the doctor never told me to look at my diet? I knew from then that I wanted to help other people feel better through understanding food.

I started cooking from scratch, reading everything I could about nutrition, took a macrobiotic cooking course, and I became certified in Plant-based Nutrition. I also reconnected with pilates and yoga, and found that the way to feeling good was to eat a mostly plant-based diet and take part in as much mind-body exercise as possible.

It was when I started doing a vegan meal delivery service that I met Suzanne, who owns Downdog & Crow, the most beautiful yoga studio you will ever see. As we became friends, she told me that she had always imagined there would be a café that people could go to before and after yoga in the courtyard. With quite a bit of nudging and pushing away of fears by Suzanne and the people mentioned above, Plants & Pilates the eatery, smoothie and tea bar was born.

All our food is free from meat, fish, dairy, eggs and refined sugar. Everything is made from scratch by myself, using familiar ingredients. No additives or nasties, just pure, whole foods that will fuel your body. You’ll find daily salads, grains and soups; smashed avocado on sourdough with lime, chilli and Himalayan salt; fresh smoothies; homemade maple and pecan granola; almond mylk lattes; ceremonial grade matcha; turmeric lattes and 27 different types of tea; not to mention sweet (but free from refined sugar) treats such as fudgey maca brownies and our almost famous peanut butter choc chip cookies.

In the short few months that we have been open, a real community of inspiring people continue to gather in our little cafe. I hope this will continue and grow, and eventually deliver food to local businesses and homes too.


Unlocking the Cage

The Oxford Student VegSoc had scheduled a screening of the excellent film Unlocking the Cage, about US animal rights lawyer Steve Wise’s attempt to obtain personhood rights for chimpanzees for Thursday 23rd February. However, we are sorry to report that this event has now been cancelled. If and when the film is shown details will be posted on the Voice for Ethical Research at Oxford (VERO) blog: http://voiceforethicalresearchatoxford.wordpress.com/

Paul Appleby

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