DIY Tofu Press

I take no credit for having ‘invented’ this, but it’s so simple to do that it would be daft not to share. The acrylic sheets cost £3.50 from eBay (including the postage) and the bolts and wingnuts about the same from a local shop. It took a couple of minutes to put together and will save endless amounts of future faffing about with hand-squeezing, improvised weights and kitchen roll. Well worth the ‘effort’.


2 x 6mm acrylic sheet, around A5 size (210x148mm)
4 x 8x100mm bolts with matching wingnuts (washers optional)

Drill four 8mm diameter holes in each corner of the acrylic sheets, around 20mm in from the edges. Put a washer on each bolt then put the bolts through the corner holes. Screw on the wingnuts. Done.

To use, simply put your tofu* between the sheets and lightly tighten up the wingnuts until it’s held in position. Put the press on its edge on a plate and give the wingnuts a twist or two every minute or so until the tofu offers up a fair bit of resistance but doesn’t split, then leave for another few minutes to drain completely.

That’s it.

*For extra-chewy / absorbent tofu, freeze it first then allow to defrost before pressing.

DIY tofu press

Noms, Not Bombs!

Soy Not Oi! 2The people behind the classic vegan punk cookbook ‘Soy, Not Oi!’* have got back together to produce a second part in honour of their friend and original SNO! contributor Joel, who sadly died earlier this year.

They’re looking for contributions to the new book – anecdotes about the original SNO!, stories about Joel, special features on vegan living, and original recipe contributions from anyone who’d like to send them one to test out.

I’ve submitted a handful of dishes already. Two have been accepted (devilled chickpeas and coconut, lime and ginger cheezecake), and two are on the ‘to taste’ list (spicy potato balls and cider-battered onion rings). There may be more to come if inspiration strikes.

More info over at the Soy Not Oi! website, with regular updates via their FB page.

*UK folks can get the original from Active Distribution, US peeps should try AK Press.

Seitanic Mass

I’ve read so much over the years about this mysterious wonderfood called seitan, but never been able to find the basic ingredient (wheat gluten powder) in the UK, at least not within a reasonable price range, to have a go at making it myself. There’s a long-winded way to knock some up with ordinary flour, but it takes fucking forever (I know, I’ve tried) and you lose loads of bulk when you rinse it out, ending up with a tiny lump of the stuff (not to mention all the water used – there’s only so much waste water a small garden will absorb before technically becoming a swamp). Gluten powder has all the hard work done.

Now, thanks to the interwebs, I’ve found somewhere that offers it at a great price per kilo and will deliver up to 30 kilos for a fixed cost (just under a fiver). I bought 5 kilos and, even with the postage, it’s a good deal. If a group of vegans (what’s the collective noun for a group of vegans – a righteousness?) chip in and put in a bulk order, it’s a total bargain.

I’ve tried a couple of recipes so far, one of which involves boiling the seitan in stock so it comes out looking like a brain but slices up in a very meaty fashion (taken from Robin Robertson’s fantastic ‘1000 Vegan Recipes’), and one from the ever-dependable Post-Punk Kitchen that turns it into a salami sausage or loaf (depending on whether you make one roll or two). Although the boiled stuff is good (and essential for many recipes), the salami recipe is definitely the one that’s gonna be seeing regular action in my kitchen. Seriously, this stuff slices perfectly for sarnies, can be part of your pizza topping, chopped into pasta (sauce), stir-fried, diced into a chili or whatever other creative urge takes your fancy (although I wouldn’t recommend it on a cheesecake).

I’ve just found a new addiction.

Culinary Anarchy!

Conscious Kitchen logoThe Conscious Kitchen
I found this blog via the rather excellent VegBlogs (another new blogroll addition that collects a fine set of vegan bloggers together in one handy place). It’s a cracking piece of work too, with Emilie (the author) showing just how exciting and flavoursome vegan food can, and should, be. Her blog is packed full of inspirational writing, clever ideas and stunning photographs that made me drool all over my keyboard.

The very first post I read was the author’s tale of the inspiration she’d found from getting her hands on a copy of ‘Soy Not Oi!’ (the closest thing you’ll ever find to a vegan punk bible) the best part of 20 years back, and then, just a couple of years ago, meeting up with J@ck, one of the original authors, and then, just for the hell of it, creating a celebratory 40th birthday meal for him using her battered (battered as in well-used, not dipped in batter) first edition of the book as the starting point and then, while chowing down on the (very tasty looking) end result, deciding to do a twentieth anniversary version. Like you do.

I always liked to cook when I was a kid, but I was quite a finicky eater. Once I’d left home, however, I had the freedom to really play in the kitchen, to try food in new ways (no more boiled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life cabbage), to challenge my own tastebuds and capabilities (although I still can’t find a way to prepare aubergine that makes it any more attractive than eating a well-spiced slug), to cook how I wanted to cook, and things quickly changed. The fact that this independence also coincided with my move to veganism opened up a whole new world of epicurean pleasure, one that I’m still exploring to this day.

Soy Not Oi coverWhen I discovered ‘Soy Not Oi!’, it chimed perfectly with my by then well-developed approach. I didn’t always know what some of the ingredients were (especially the commercial pre-packaged stuff that pops up now and again), and cup measurements took a bit of getting used to – back then I didn’t have a clue what the volume of an American cup was, so had to guess and do a lot of experimenting to get things just right with some of the recipes, where exact quantities are necessary for things to turn out roughly as you’d expect them to (and not as some inedible swamp-like sludge or dry-as-a-nun’s-chuff lump). Now I’ve got some proper measuring cups, it ain’t half as difficult to get things right first time. But I learnt a lot of useful things without ’em (not least that a stick of margarine is about 4oz or 115g in the non-American world).

I bought five copies of the book back in the day, gave four away as birthday presents and kept one for myself. Like Emilie’s copy, mine too became so much more than a few dozen pages cranked out and stapled together by some young miscreants. It became an essential part of my life. The food is just one element. The attitude is far more important, striking a deep chord that still resonates in me all these years down the line.

Sadly, my original copy was lost in action somewhere along the line a few years back. Happily, AK Press have reprinted it and made it available for the next wave of culinarchists (UK readers can get it for a wallet-friendly £4 from Active Distro). My new(ish) copy is now back where it rightfully belongs, ready for action on my cookbook shelf and still getting the creative juices and saliva flowing.

J@ck and Emilie are looking for contributions to the anniversary edition and are “hoping to collect new recipes and non-recipes, jumping off points for diy explorations to fuel a new generation of vegan masterminds”. If you’d like to join in, email Emilie at

While you’re waiting for it to appear, do what I intend to do and check out Emilie’s blog on a regular basis. Your tastebuds will love you forever.

OP’s opinion for both: Five

Green Your Eats!

Thursday 1st November is World Vegan Day, a chance for vegans globally to show just how positive veganism is. And not just for the animals we don’t kill, but also for our own wellbeing and for the health of the planet. In fact, this year the focus will be on the ecological catastrophe that is animal farming. ‘Eating The Earth? How Your Diet Could Change The World’ (PDF) pulls together the evidence and makes a forceful case for veganism for those who claim to be concerned with environmental issues.

I’ll be inviting a few friends round for some good vegan nosh, sociable amounts of alcohol and a bit of high- and low-brow debate to mark the day. I don’t expect my bonecrunching friends to give up eating dead stuff, but if they eat a bit less of it it’s no bad thing.

There are plenty of excellent vegan recipes online – I’d particularly recommend Post Punk Kitchen for some really top-class fancy examples of vegan cuisine. The rich chocolate cake is the best cake I’ve ever eaten, vegan or otherwise, a view shared by most of those who’ve also tried it. But to help you get started, here’s one of my own creations.

Tofu & Veg Thai Curry

It’s sometimes hard to find food that is both light and substantial, but Thai food is generally just that. Lots of fresh flavours, sharp spicing and a certain creamy fattiness all make for a lovely mouthful. It’s also bloody quick.

This recipe uses Thai curry paste, which isn’t cheating as the fresh ingredients can be a bit of a bugger to find sometimes (and even harder to prepare – lemon grass should definitely be renamed lemon wood to honestly reflect how tough it is). One thing to watch out for – many Thai pastes contain fish in one form or another, so check the label carefully – I use the ‘Maesri’ brand.

Serves 2-3.

  • 1-2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 150g of smoked or marinated tofu cut into cubes (Taifun smoked tofu with almonds and sesame seeds is very good in this recipe)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 stick celery, sliced diagonally
  • 2-3 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 medium florets broccoli, halved
  • 75g sweetcorn
  • 75g green beans, sliced, or fine green beans topped, tailed and cut in half
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • Half a red pepper, halved lengthways again and sliced
  • 2 tbs vegan red or green Thai curry paste (or according to your brand’s instructions)
  • 3/4 -1 tin (approx 3-400g) coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tbs shoyu, tamari or vegetarian ‘fish / oyster’ sauce
  • Fresh basil (Thai if available), shredded

Heat the oil in a wok or big frying pan over a medium high heat for a minute, then throw in the tofu and stir fry until starting to brown. Add the carrots, celery, shallots, garlic, broccoli, sweetcorn and beans, and continue to stir fry for about 4 mins. Add the mushrooms and pepper and stir fry for 2 mins, add the curry paste and fry for a further min. Pour in the coconut milk so there’s enough liquid for your own preferences, lime juice and shoyu / tamari / ‘fish’ sauce and heat until it starts to bubble, then remove from heat. If you like your veg a bit softer, then let it simmer for a few more mins in the coconut milk. Stir in the shredded basil to taste and dollop over rice (white works best with this recipe, both basmati and jasmine rice are excellent and will cook in the time it takes you to make the curry).

Best eaten with a spoon to get all the juices (call me simple, but I always prefer an easy shovel motion to the complex two-handed approach when eating saucy foods).

Food For Thought

There was a time when my diet could’ve been classed as traditionally British. Main meals were built around the meat ‘n’ two veg approach, except for Fridays and holidays when we would have fish ‘n’ chips. Milk was drunk by the pint (and from proper glass bottles too!) and eggs found their way onto nearly every plate of food in some guise or another. I was even a fan of the more ‘exotic’ bits of dead animals – I used to watch my Uncle George make brawn from fresh pig’s brain removed from the head by his own fair hands (for those that don’t know, brawn is made from cooking and chopping the brain, then setting it in gelatine ready for slicing and eating, which I readily did), and baked ox tongue was a fave sandwich filler. Although I never got on with liver or kidney as I always found them too strong, almost bitter, in flavour.

I’m telling you all this just to let you know that I never had any squeamishness as such when it came to consuming bits of or things from animals.

Then I heard this band called Crass. They had some friends who were also in bands. And some of the time these bands made the point that the killing of animals for food wasn’t a particularly nice thing. So I did some listening and read the pamphlets that I got at gigs, and decided to do some practical research. This mainly involved sneaking into an abattoir, then sneaking out again a fuck of a lot faster.

Typical image from an abattoir

© Vegetarian / Vegan Society Of Queensland

Although what I’d read and seen on film had begun to raise serious questions about the whole flesh thing, nothing had prepared me for the complete sensual overload that I experienced when I saw what they actually did to animals. The dead pig’s head and scooped-out brain could not convey the Bosch-like nightmare that marked these animals’ final moments of life. I defy anyone who claims that the process is humane to visit one of these places. Unless your definition of humane includes terror, fear, suffering, pain and death, I think you’d find your arguments would crumble pretty quickly.

I was mixing with punks who were exploring the same ideas and turning words into action, and it was enough to convince me that vegetarianism was a necessary part of my simple desire for a nicer world. And it wasn’t long before I took the logical step to veganism. Reading and learning about the way the world functioned, and the possibilities of change, encouraged me to sharpen up my logical arguments too, to make the connections at an ‘intellectual’ as well as an emotional level. The likes of Tom Regan and Richard Ryder played a major role in that, and they’re still making their points today.

And although what I’d seen in that slaughterhouse had appalled me to my very core, I didn’t let that stop me from doing the right thing, even if it involved facing the stark reality of animal suffering head on. And face it I did. Suffice to say that the things I’ve seen and done have removed the blinkers and I couldn’t imagine making myself blind again.

And I’m still a vegan more than 20 years later.

Why am I saying this? I guess it was triggered by recently reading that Pete Boyce, one of the founding members of Antisect, a band that championed animal liberation, was now a bonecruncher again. This was the guy who had written ‘Tortured And Abused’, a devastating attack on animal murder wrapped around the simple refrain ‘Why? Why must I die?’. A song that, according to his own website was ‘from the heart’.

From the heart.

Yeah, right. I have to seriously question that statement. If he’s now crunching bones again, how could it have ever been from the heart? To me, that expression implies something that is an intrinsic part of who you are. Something that, although it may have a degree of elasticity, will be with you for life. Clearly, whatever he was saying back then wasn’t ‘from the heart’.

Amongst the folk I know, the ones who slipped back easily from veganism to flesh eating were those whose beliefs hadn’t been informed by experience. They’d read the leaflets and learnt the words and that was it. No action (apart from a change in diet) followed. They didn’t bother finding out for themselves, didn’t immerse themselves in the reality of what they claimed to believe in, didn’t think but merely followed the herd. Simply playing in a band singing songs doesn’t count. Those of us who were (and continue to be) active, who took the songs as a starting point rather than a conclusion, have maintained our ideals because they really are heartfelt.

Compare what Boyce has done with the attitude of Colin Jerwood from Conflict. Here’s a man who walks the walk he’s talked over the years. A man who’s got stuck in and got his hands dirty because he knows the words don’t mean shit on their own. A man who knows what ‘from the heart’ really means, who’s maintained consistency and integrity in his outlook even as that outlook has changed and evolved over the years. In this short video, Colin talks about why he believes what he does.

I’m not saying that everyone who becomes a veggie or whatever just because of a song or leaflet won’t become committed to that cause and take it to heart for life. But I do think it’s much easier for people to slip back into unthinking, uncritical and passive ways of living when what they claim to believe is only based on words and pictures. It’s much harder to do it if you’ve been in the thick of it.

People change, I can accept that. But if you do change, at least have the bollocks to admit that what you once ‘believed’ was really nothing more than a herd mentality mindset and not ‘from the heart’.

Useful Links:

Animal Liberation Front
Hunt Saboteurs Association
The Vegan Society
Vegetarian / Vegan Society Of Queensland

What A Gas!

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the media in recent times, you’ll have probably noticed yet another round of stories resulting from the latest UN report about global warming and impending ecological catastrophe. Human activity is put in the frame, and quite rightly so. There is now no question that what we do and how we do it has led to destructive climate change and, if we fail to tackle the problems caused by our activities on this planet, then our future’s going to be short-lived, unpleasant and brutal.

What struck me more, though, was how another report, issued by the UN back in November last year, seems to have bypassed the mainstream meeja’s radar. This report looks at one of the major causes of global warming – farts. Not just farts, to be fair, but all the greenhouse gases, as well as other negative environmental effects, that are produced by farming animals for food. And it makes for sphincter-clenching reading.

Did you know, for example, that farmed animals produce more greenhouse gases than transport – around a fifth of the global total? Not only that, but the farming of animals for food has seen around a quarter of our planet given over to livestock farming, a third turned over for growing farm animal feed crops, and nearly 10% of the world’s water supply being used in the whole process. Their piss becomes acid rain – two-thirds of all the anthropogenic (caused by human activity) ammonia comes from farming animals. The waste products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides pollute the land, air and water.

In short, animal farming is an environmental catastrophe.

But it’s also probably one of the easiest problems to solve. It involves nothing more than changing what we eat. Despite the failure of the UN to say as much, switching to a vegan diet is about the simplest and most direct way that we can make a real difference. It’s far easier to change what you eat today, right now, than it is to change the way that industry operates or what fuel you put in your car.

To help get you started, here are the lyrics-cum-recipe for Anarcho-Pie by Jockish herberts Oi Polloi:

Mixed veg
Red beans

Let’s make a tasty anarcho-pie – ace vegan food for you and I
Let’s make a tasty anarcho-pie – ace vegan food for you and I

Take eight ounces of pastry and, leaving a little bit aside, roll out two equal portions each a quarter inch thick. Then use one of these to carefully line the bottom of your chosen pie dish.

Cook the ingredients for the pie filling separately and then place these inside the pie dish on top of the pastry base. Wetting the top of the edge of the pastry base, affix the pastry cover to the anarcho-pie.

Now comes the important bit: using the spare bits of pastry, decorate the top of the pie with a pastry anarchy sign – symbolising our never-ending resistance to the omnicidal system that perverts our lives.

After baking the pie in the oven for between thirty and thirty-five minutes at approximately four hundred degrees farenheit it should be ready fir serving and by this time should have developed a good crust!

Mmm… uurrgh, I don’t like mushrooms. Howay, pass them ower – I’ll have them. Aye, this pie, this pie’s barry – it’s almost as good as – as a singing hiney man! Mmm… mmmm… Alright John eh aye? Aye barry! That’s what it is – pure canny! Uurgh, I don’t like walnuts. I’ll have them. Mmmmm… Aye, ye canny beat this vegan food, ken? Aye, vegan food. Oh, it’s the best. Pure dead brilliant man. Anarcho-pie rules, ken? Aye. How long does this go on for? Who’s doing the dishes? The wimmin! Aaaahhh!! Street cred gone! Knife him!! Knife the anarcho-pie anyway. Aye man. Aye. ‘kin raj! Aye etc.