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    Baking vegan cupcakes

    I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes recently.  The last few batches have been made from recipes from the Primrose Bakery, but I was invited to an ex-vegan-now-vegetarian friend’s birthday and thought I’d finally have a go at making vegan cupcakes.

    I’ve always shied away from vegan cupcakes because a lot of them seemed to involve adding things that just seemed odd to have in cake.  Admittedly since eating beetroot and courgette cakes I’ve relaxed a bit on that, but we’ve never had tofu in the house and it seems odd to start now.

    Thankfully I found a recipe on The Vegan Society website where the weirdest ingredients are oil and vinegar.  That’s okay; we have those in the house (well we didn’t have vinegar, but we needed it).

    8floz (230ml) soya milk
    1 tsp vinegar
    5oz (140g) caster sugar
    3floz (90ml) vegetable oil
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    4oz (125g) plain flour
    1 1/2 oz (45g) cocoa powder
    3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C/gas mark 4 and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
    2. Whisk together soya milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add sugar, oil and vanilla extract and beat until foamy.
    3. In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
    4. Pour into liners, filling three quarters of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack. Eat while still warm or allow to cool completely and ice with chocolate ‘buttercream’ .

    From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by I C Moskowitz & T H Romero ( with thanks. Makes 12.


    I couldn’t get the soya milk and vinegar to curdle and I replaced the vegetable oil with sunflower as we had it in the house, but everything seemed to turn out fine.  My housemate did say that the batter looked like melted chocolate and once baked they did look pretty dark with chocolate, but actually they weren’t too sickly.  Even with a load of vegan chocolate buttercream icing on top.

    I’m not a huge fan of baking chocolate cake, but these were easy enough to do, didn’t really require anything too odd and apart from an issue with the silicone cupcake cases (silicone ones went wonky, paper cases were fine) they weren’t really any different to regular cupcakes.  Definitely a recipe for the binder.


    New beginnings…

    That’s it, I’ve bitten the bullet, bought a domain name and I’m giving this blogging malarkey another go. The rather silly URL hopefully conveys a sense of whimsically jumping around subjects with a kind of enthusiasm that one can only expect from someone as curious and slightly eccentric (I say slightly, this is often debated) as I.

    I’ve moved over posts from three old blogs, mainly to give myself some encouragement that I am indeed capable of blogging, but also as a reminder of things I’ve done and might want to write about again. They seem to have little in common, other than I’ve written them, but go from music reviews, to bread courses and how the Internet is a bit awesome.

    So, going forward, what to blog now? Who knows? Probably fairly similar to what I’ve blogged before, just with more regularity. I’ll blog about: the monthly book club I run and the weird and wonderful questions we discuss; interesting things I find in my home town of Birmingham UK, as well as when I wander the country visiting friends; charity projects and events; things I’ve read about that bother me; stuff I attend; probably a blog post on the stresses of trying to do an AS level when you’ve only got time to give one night a week to it; attempts at making jewellery and a raft of other things.

    Here goes…


    To card or not to card – When is a Christmas card appropriate?

    My housemate came home earlier with a festive dilemma that made wondering how many minutes to the pound to cook a turkey a doddle.  Christmas cards: who gets one and who gets listed on them.  Actually it’s more complex than that – a near half hour conversation boiled down to the following…

    When do you include a significant other – when they’re living together, when they’re married, if you’ve met them?

    When should you/your significant other be included in the sending of card – when you’re living together or if you both want to wish that person/persons happy holidays?

    Or is it household to household?  In which case, when is it appropriate to stop including family members that have flown the nest?  And if you’ve moved out, should you expect and send a separate card?

    And is the use of ‘partner’ or ‘and family’ just a bit rude, especially if they’re not married, they have no children or are just living together?  Should this be used if you’ve no idea who their significant other is and if so are you wishing random strangers happy holidays?

    If, as I am, living with friends, should we be sending and receiving cards to mutual friends as a household?

    When do you send cards to friends – when you won’t see them near the festive period, people you’re especially close to, people you see on a regular basis (work people)?

    Do facebook/text messages on the day make this whole concept redundant?

    And finally, are we overthinking this?

    I haven’t sent out Christmas cards this year, mainly because I’m only just beginning to catch up with my own life.  But given the in-depth conversation I’ve just taken part in, I think it was probably wise!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog Sisyphean Solutions*


    Fighting fascism with fascism?

    Yesterday evening I happened across an anti-BNP protest in Birmingham city centre. I’m not entirely sure why they felt the need to protest then – as far as I know there was nothing specifically BNP happening in Brum yesterday. I suspect it was to echo the protest in London where BNP leader Nick Griffin was holding a press conference.  Nevertheless given the lack of elected BNP officials in B’ham over say, Stoke, it seemed like an odd choice.

    What seemed like an even odder choice was their method of protest.  They chanted, the abused and generally they professed their hatred through intimidating and aggressive methods without really educating anyone on why the BNP are racist/fascist/homophobic/sexist/generally reprehensible humans. Sure they said it, but they never once gave examples. They could’ve pointed to comments from prominent BNP supporters that women should enjoy rapelinks to the National Front or well-publicised Holocaust denial.  For the entire time I was observing I didn’t once hear them tell people why the BNP are bad, only that they are.  And the protest in London was worse at echoing the uninformative sentiment.

    Anti-BNP protest in Birmingham on 9/6/09

    Anti-BNP protest in Birmingham on 9/6/09

    But what’s the point?  Why should ordinary people passing through the city centre believe protesters without evidence?  And why should they believe people who act in a manner that echoes one they are fighting against?

    Surely the way to argue against a group who you believe will erode democracy, remove free speech and employ violence and interrogation is to not to use their methods as a template to get your message across.  Yes, what they propose is nothing short of terrifying, but hounding them out, not giving them a chance to speak and refusing to nobly argue your point and show your point of view is correct can only be viewed as undemocratic and equally oppressive.

    The way to get people round to your thinking cannot be to deny the opposing side a voice, that can only serve to drive them underground and make their message more dangerous. And even if you did succeed in stamping out the opposing view through intimidating, what kind of victory is that?


    Bank Holiday pancakes

    Continuing the ageing of my good self to that of the middle years, I got up early and cooked blueberry pancakes for my housemates before we trekked off to the cinema to see Coraline in 3D, buy cables in Maplins and eat ice cream in Selfridges.

    The recipe came from Olive Magazine’s May issue where they had a recipe a day article and this was the one for today.  It’s incredibly easy and uses sensible, everyday ingredients – which is always a plus.  The last time I made blueberry pancakes was about three years ago and I distinctively remember failing to find buttermilk in Lancaster in December.  I know the supermarkets in Birmingham sell it, but it’s not exactly an everyday purchase that I’ll use again.  So the fact this used things we would already have in the house (minus blueberries) sold it to me.

    200g self-raising flour
    1tsp baking powder
    pinch of salt
    1 egg
    300ml milk
    25g melted butter
    85g 100g blueberries (I used more because some of the pancakes had lots of blueberries and towards the end some were lacking)

    • Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
    • Mix together the wet ingredients – butter, egg and milk.  I had some problems with the melted butter in the cold milk – best to leave it to room temperature before adding.
    • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk.  The recipe said to do this in parts, but it was fine all in.
    • Stir in the blueberries.
    • Heat some butter in a non-stick pan and drop in tablespoonfuls of the mixture.  Cook for about three minutes on one side and then flip for another three.

    Easy to make and very, very tasty.  Housemates well fed – possibly too many for three people.  Would be good for four.  Yummy.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*