Wednesday Wants… Easter eggs and other gift ideas

For weeks now I’ve been ogling the supermarket shelves as they’ve filled up with rows on rows of Easter treats. There’s no worse time of the year for chocolate temptation, in my opinion….as much as Christmas tends to bring with it more than its fair share of chocolatey goodness, there are so many other treats on offer that chocolate pales in comparison. We’ve already eaten our first Cream Eggs (keenly lamenting the loss of their traditional recipe), and scoffed more than one bag of Mini Eggs, which are clearly the work of the devil due to their temptation factor.

As usual though, I’m also massively drawn to pretty packaging, and I just adore the look of some of the more ‘luxury’ type of Easter treats. None more so than Booja Booja‘s Easter Collection which looks simply divine….

Featuring hand-painted, papier-maché Easter eggs made in Kashmir, each is hand-packed in Norfolk with delicious chocolate truffles in several flavours. If you’ve not tried Booja Booja chocolates before, I highly recommend that you do. And once you have, I bet you’ll find it hard to believe that they’re vegan, and free of gluten, dairy and soya.

The truffles are seriously luxurious, rich and dreamy and melt-in-the-mouth. You can choose from Hazelnut Crunch, Around Midnight Espresso, Banoffee Toffee, Almond and Sea Salt Caramel, or Fine de Champagne. Small eggs, which include three truffles are £9.99, whilst the large eggs, which contain twelve truffles, are £24.99. Plus of course you get to keep the beautiful egg once you’ve finished off the contents, and use it to hoard treasures and trinkets!

Booja Booja Hazelnut Crunch Easter Egg, Under A Glass Sky

Booja Booja ‘Hazelnut Crunch’ Easter Egg

Booja Booja 'Around Midnight Espresso' Easter Egg, Under A Glass Sky

Booja Booja ‘Around Midnight Espresso’ Easter Egg

Booja Booja 'Banoffee Toffee ' Easter Egg, Under A Glass Sky

Booja Booja ‘Banoffee Toffee ‘ Easter Egg

If you’re trying to kerb your chocolate consumption though, perhaps try this yummy sounding lip balm from Sweet Cecily’s. The entire range is hand-made and natural, paraben and SLS free, and never tested on animals. This one even looks like a chocolate bar….but with the advantage that it won’t go straight to your hips!

If you really must ditch the chocolate entirely though, I think these adorable egg cups by Quail Ceramics are a perfect Easter treat. I’ve long since lusted after their adorable animal inspired treasures, and these three are just so perfect for a Spring breakfast spread.

And because it’s not *all* about food (well, almost), I think this super cute trinket dish would make an adorable Easter gift. Just look at that podgy little bunny, waiting to tidy up your treasures! He’d be a lovely addition to a dressing table, or would be perfect to pop next to the sink for when you need to take your rings off!

I hope you have a lovely Easter filled with whatever treats tickle your fancy!

Ems x

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Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds

We’ve hardly been into Leeds really since we moved….most free weekends have been spent adventuring around the kind of places we were thinking of moving to, and looking at houses. We decided to pop into town on the train for a few hours though, the weekend before last, mostly because Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair was taking place at the Corn Exchange (we used to love going to the one held in Spitalfields Market when we lived near). After some treasure hunting and a stop off at the amazing organic food shop opposite the Corn Exchange, we decided to head for lunch at Global Tribe Cafe…..and I think it’s safe to say it’ll draw us back to Leeds much more often!

The unassuming cafe is located above the Global Tribe Crystal shop on Swan Street, opposite the City Varieties Music Hall. It’s extremely purple inside, and super friendly with an open kitchen. We were very lucky and got a table right away, but the place is clearly very popular and several people had to wait or come back to try their luck again.

Vegan Autumnal Pie at Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds

Vegan Autumnal Pie at Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds

The menu is seasonal, and jam packed with things I want to try…..most things are available as a vegan option (if they’re not already) and they also have lots of gluten free options too. Being the pie fiend that I am, I opted for the Autumnal Vegan Pie….the pastry was perfect and the filling delicious, plus the garlic kale and sauteed potatoes were just divine. Oh, and I also got my very own boat of gravy….just perfect! Adam went for the Vegan Jambalaya with Cajun Patties, which was equally yummy, and for drinks we both chose the chocolate milkshake made with coconut milk (you can also choose from soya, almond or dairy milk).

Vegan Jambalaya at Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds

Vegan Jambalaya at Global Tribe Cafe, Leeds

The service was friendly and efficient, so that along with the several other dishes I want to try will certainly see us returning for more!

Ems x

The Cheerful Chilli Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant, Otley

The Cheerful Chilli Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant and Tea Rooms, Otley Chevin, West Yorkshire

When we first moved to Yorkshire, I did the usual thing of scouring the social networks to find local people and businesses in order to get a feel for the area and find out what’s going on. And when I found that one of the most recommended local restaurants was vegetarian, I was super pleased. I’ve often struggled when eating out, because I tend not to eat meat out (other than when I really know where it’s come from) and I get pretty hacked off when the vegetarian choices are precisely the opposite….a list of one, which means I have no choice at all. Things are further complicated by the fact that my husband doesn’t eat mushrooms or beetroot, which seem to be the staple for many chefs trying to feed veggies. Oh and a salad isn’t a meal…..just because I want to eat veggie doesn’t mean I’m on a health kick! (End rant)

Anyways, pretty excited about the massive choice on offer, we visited The Cheerful Chilli soon after we arrived. It’s a small, family run place, situated on top of the beautiful Chevin Forest Park in an old farm building. It’s fairly casual (no table cloths) but you need to book well in advance if you want to go on a Saturday night as the place is clearly very popular. We’ve now been three times….twice for dinner and once for lunch….and I can thoroughly recommend it.

The menu is varied, although there is a slight Mexican slant….the chilli is their ‘house dish’ and if, like me, your’e into your chimichangas, fajitas, tacos and enchiladas, you won’t be disappointed! From the dinner menu our favourites are the sharing platter starter (seriously yummy and HUGE), the blue cheese burger (yes, this is made from mostly blue cheese, held together with a few breadcrumbs and then topped with melted cheddar!) and the tacos (super tasty and mega satisfying). The puddings are also to die for…the ice cream is home made and AMAZING, and the Chocolate Nemesis is divine.

The lunch menu changes weekly….we loved the vegetarian lasagne and the Moroccan tagine. You can actually visit just for coffee and cake at the weekends (the only time it’s open during the day) and I defy anyone not to enjoy their chocolate Guinness cake, which is clearly a gift from the Gods.

The restaurant offers Bring Your Own Bottle, although their wine list is very reasonable and there are also some great soft drinks to choose from. You can also buy dishes to take away, and they even have a stall at Otley Farmers’ Market too!

It’s a great place to go with friends or family….everything is pretty relaxed and you won’t be stared at for getting a bit noisy and enjoying yourself! We’ve been really impressed by the great value and generous portions (one has to be very careful if hoping to fit in a pudding!) as well as delighted with the choice. There is a good range of vegan dishes, as well as a banquet menu for larger groups. All in all, well worth a visit if you’re in West Yorkshire!

Ems x

Meat Free Week

As you’ve probably seen on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere already, this week is Meat Free Week! The global campaign is challenging us all to give up meat for the week, to get us thinking about how much meat we eat, and the impact of that on our health, the environment and animal welfare. It’s not just about red meat (beef, lamb and pork), but all meat, including poultry, processed meat (like ham, bacon, salami and packaged sandwich meats), fish and seafood.

Going meat free for one week is a really positive step for anyone; The hope being that for the other 51 weeks of the year you’ll consider eating smaller portions or fewer meat-based meals as part of a balanced diet, and also ensure that the meat, fish, eggs or poultry you eat is ethically and sustainably produced. I’ve written about my feelings on meat-eating before, and because this means I eat very little meat (those ‘meat-free mondays’ actually work better in opposite in our house as we’re only really likely to eat meat once a week!) I suppose this week will be relatively easy for me.

And that’s why I thought I’d share a load of recipes to encourage you to take part, and to show you how easy it is to eat meat free….really well! I adore my food, and I love meat and fish and all the rest, but because I am now very picky about these (in terms of welfare mostly) the increased cost means that it’s more of a treat than a staple. I’m sure that this has benefitted my health which is of course a bonus too.

Anyway, for our main meal today (we have this at lunch time, with a lighter supper later) I made a super delicious dish that took only ten minutes and didn’t require any special ingredients at all (in fact, all stuff we had in the fridge already). I cut a courgette into small cubes, and finely chopped up a small white onion (both from our excellent organic veg box from a local farm), frying them both in a knob of butter until soft and golden.

I then whipped up a simple four cheese sauce, by melting another knob of butter in a pan and adding a small carton of organic single cream. I grated in some of the AMAZING smoked Mrs Kirkham’s Lanchashire I bought at a farm shop recently, some organic mature cheddar, organic parmesan, and a little left over goats cheese that needed using up. Once that was all nice and melty, I thickened with a little sauce flour and cooked some fresh gnocchi in a second pan. Then it was just a case of combining the veg, cheese sauce and gnocchi…serving it up and scoffing the lot! SO quick and easy…..very satisying….and of course, meat free!

Well hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetite, and perhaps you’d also like to try some of these recipes to enjoy a week of meat free meals…..

I hope that gives you some inspiration to go meat free for the week….if you’d like any more ideas or advice please do leave a comment as I’d love to encourage anyone to join in!

You can sign up to the campaign here….. Good luck, and enjoy!

Ems x

Wednesday Wants: Wills Vegan Shoes

So you may have seen me wax lyrical about the super lush vegan bags by MATT & NAT recently, and I’m still eagerly planning my haul when I place a new order following my wardrobe clear-out! I’ve never found it quite so easy to fawn over vegan shoes though…..I’ve just never found a collection that both fitted the ethical bill, and also left me drooling. It’s a bit like when you look at the veggie options at a restaurant and the chef has clearly assumed you’re veggie because you’re trying to be healthy and so you must just want a salad…..wanting ethically produced shoes doesn’t mean I have no desire to wear something practical and fashionable!

However, whilst internetting earlier this week I came across a brand called Wills and realised I’d finally found my vegan shoe crush.

Will Green founded Wills “with a passion to provide animal and human friendly shoes with high-street styles and prices.” The aim of the brand is to bridge the gap between everyday people and ethically produced shoes. The entire range is free of animal products while workers are paid in accordance with European guidelines.

Shoes are made with microfibers that look, wear, breathe and resist water just like leather, and because they’re priced to compete with high street brands, there is no excuse not to make a more ethical choice! There is a range for men too, and Will looks to me an awful lot like John Krasinski, which is always a good sign in my opinion!

It was initially the super comfy looking boots which caught my eye, but as I’m focussing on those tiny signs that Spring is on its way, I opted for a ‘want’ list that was a little more geared to the coming seasons…..

Perforated Oxfords in Navy, £75.00

Perforated Oxfords in Navy, £75.00

Brogues in Chestnut, £69

Brogues in Chestnut, £69

Fringed Loafers in Black, £65

Fringed Loafers in Black, £65

Mary Jane Kitten Heels in Black, £64

Mary Jane Kitten Heels in Black, £64

Lace up Heels in Caramel, £49

Lace up Heels in Caramel, £49

So now it’s just a case of getting those shoes cleared out of the wardrobe so that I can fill it up with some of these beauties!

Ems x

 

PS. Shipping to the UK is only £4, with free returns! And furthermore, if you head to the website now you can get a voucher code for free delivery on your first order! x

Valentine Pamper Hamper from Mira

Mira 360 Shower and Valentine's Day pamper hamper

Earlier this week a rather excitingly huge parcel arrived to my door…. filled with lots of pampering treats! The fabulous folk at Mira sent me a whole kit of lovely things to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I thought I’d share it with you here…..

To begin with, the entire package smells amazing. Along with a super soft bathrobe and an organic loofah mit, I found Petal Fresh Botanicals‘ Aloe and Pomegranate Facial Clay Masque (which is cruelty free and vegan), Beauticology‘s Strawberry and Pomegranate Body Butter (also cruelty free), and a sweet little brown paper parcel filled with yummy smelling heart shaped soaps. I think it’s the scent of all those three combined that is so divine and I can’t wait to try them all out in a mass Valentine’s pampering session tomorrow!

Mira 360 Shower and Valentine's Day pamper hamper

The most exciting bit though (don’t judge me, I’m obsessed with house stuff at the moment as we prepare to buy our own place!) is the Mira 360 shower head that completed the parcel. I know. A shower head. How exciting can that be? Well, VERY, actually.

This shower head is actually four….the main body spins around giving you four different options: ‘rain’ is much like the usual function on your regular shower head, although I found it more powerful than most; ‘storm’ is more frothy and bubbly, and gave me a lovely head massage; ‘cloud’ gives out a flat stream of foamy water, which worked really well for rinsing my hair after shampooing; and ‘burst’, a full on blast with which I gave myself a rather wonderful neck and shoulder massage!

Mira 360 Shower and Valentine's Day pamper hamper

Now I know that you can’t beat a bath for pure relaxation, but for a pampering session it has to be a shower for me….and so I’m looking forward to spending an age in there tomorrow to indulge in all those lush smelling treats, before we begin our usual Valentine’s day celebrations (take out and a scary film!).

I hope you have a good weekend, whatever you’re doing!

Ems x

 

P.S. I received the Mira Valentine’s Pamper Hamper as a gift from Mira, but please know that I would never endorse anything that didn’t truly impress me!

Wednesday Wants: Matt & Nat vegan handbags

So I’m trying to have a clear out before we move again. The largest box when we moved still hasn’t been un-packed….it is filled with my handbags (the ones I don’t use on a day to day basis) and I’ve vowed to reduce them by selling them on Ebay and giving them away to charity. I’ve needed to do this for some time in honesty….there are many lovely bags that I no longer use but are in great shape and deserve a new home. But how to incentivise myself?

Well, more bags obviously.

Now I know that sounds silly, but stick with me….. I’m thinking that if I can make space and raise funds by clearing out the majority of bags in that box, I’ll have space and funds for at least a *few* replacements. Just one or two. Maybe three. But ones I’ll use more, and whilst I’m at it, I’ll make them vegan ones too.

Enter MATT & NAT. I treated myself to one of their gorgeous purses last year before going on honeymoon, as well as a pale blue handbag for when I was Bridesmaid. And I bally love them.

The quality is outstanding, the design delicious, and as if that weren’t enough, they are excellent value to boot. And if that’s not enough to convince you, just check out their ethical credentials…..

MATT & NAT stands for MAT(T)ERIAL + NATURE. It’s is a vegan brand, therefore there are no animal products used in production. No real leather, no animal derived glues, no nasties. The linings inside all MATT & NAT bags are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and, in addition to being vegan, sustainable materials are constantly sourced in their design  such as cork and rubber.

Various vegan leathers are used, including PU and PVC (PU being favoured as it is less harmful for the environment than PVC). One of their factories operates by the SA8000 standard and they intend to make this standard a bigger part of production going forward. The team diligently visits each factory and builds strong personal relationships with owners, as well as encouraging everyone to volunteer as much as possible. Oh, and at the HQ in Montreal, they have vegetarian pot luck days and eat vegan cakes. I want to work there!

Anyways, being the conscientious person I am (*cough*), I thought I’d do my research and short list some bags for my new ‘capsule’ collection. Well, at least I’m hoping that by having my eyes on the prize, I’ll actually get that sorting done! So without further ado, here is my shortlist…..

Matt & Nat, "Kite" in Champagne, £115

Matt & Nat “Kite” in Champagne, £115

 

Matt & Nat "Deeter" in Citrus, £113

Matt & Nat “Deeter” in Citrus, £113

 

Matt & Nat "Wellington" in Iris, £108

Matt & Nat “Wellington” in Iris, £108

 

Matt & Nat "Hemlock" in Nature, £125

Matt & Nat “Hemlock” in Nature, £125

 

Matt & Nat "Tardy" in Walnut, £115

Matt & Nat “Tardy” in Walnut, £115

 

Matt & Nat "Parabole" in Midnight, £90

Matt & Nat “Parabole” in Midnight, £90

 

Matt & Nat "Malone" in Black, £95

Matt & Nat “Malone” in Black, £95

 

To die for, right? Now just to figure out the short-short list!

You can buy these lush handbags, as well as men’s bags, tablet cases and wallets via the MATT & NAT website, as well as on ASOS.com. They are also available at a number of UK independent stores, including What Sarah Did in Hitchin, Hertfordshire (where I first found them, thanks Sarah!),  Accent in Leeds, Dynamite in Hebden Bridge, Nood in Manchester, Swish in Edinburgh and many stores in London.

Ems x

Something from the weekend: Mostly food

Despite still having lots to do as we settle into the house, we’ve been enjoying spending our weekends exploring our new locale….especially with the new added benefit of a car!

Adam finished work at lunch time on Friday as he had some time to take in lieu, so we drove to nearby Ilkley to walk the dogs down the river and scope out all that the town centre has to offer. We found lots of lovely shops, The Veggie cafe that we’re dying to try out, and our nearest Betty’s Tea Rooms which I hope to visit before long!

On Saturday we took an early morning walk on the gorgeous Otley Chevin, the foresty hill that overlooks the town. The dogs love it up there as there is lots to sniff and explore, and the views are just stunning on a gorgeous day like Saturday.

Lurcher at Otley Chevin

Cooper posing at the Chevin

After breakfast we drove to Kirkstall Abbey to meet my Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law and our little niece Clementine. There’s a monthly Deli Market there with dozens of wonderful food and drink stalls set up inside the beautiful ruins of the abbey. We did a circuit to see what we might like, then bought up lots of goodies….for our lunch we bought a yummy free range scotch egg and incredibly delicious pork and gammon pie from The Blue Pig (as well as some of their sausages for another day), plus some gruyere and rosemary straws. There was a huge amount of sweet stuff to choose from, and we came away with a Chai Spiced flapjack from Oat Cuisine (top prize for their punderful name!), a Vegan Columbian Coffee Tiffin from That Old Chestnut, fudge courtesy of Aunty Emily’s (another great name!), and our first ever Canadian Nanaimo bar from Fayre by Alley. We were also in need of marmalade, so we bought some amazing Orange and Cardamon Marmalade from Hummingbird Preserves. The abbey is well worth a visit in its own right, and I’m sure we’ll be back with our cameras…..and we’ll be no strangers to the Deli Market too I’d imagine!

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

Scoffing a scotch egg at Kirkstall Abbey Deli Market

We popped to Adam’s Brother’s for a cup of tea and niece cuddles, plus some fussing of their two gorgeous Staffies. Then we drove to nearby Arthington to look at a house for sale….we’re not strictly ready to move yet having only just arrived, but I’ve not stopped thinking about this place since Adam found it on Right Move and he eventually decided that the only way to shut me up was to take a look! I’m glad we did….it’s good practise for when we start viewing properly….but in reality it wasn’t quite the dream home I’d thought it was. We shall keep on looking though!

It being a month since we’ve moved here, we decided to celebrate with a meal out at a local vegetarian restaurant on Saturday night, then it was an early night for us after a busy day!

On Sunday we had our friends Craig and Shelley over for morning coffee….we’re delighted to be living so near to them now, and that we’ll get to see them more often. After a quick catch up we all walked to the Designer Craft Fair in the Otley Courthouse to peruse the pretty things, then made our way to the Farmers’ Market in the square. As usual there was lots to tempt us and we came away with full bags….Mornington House‘s scrumptious jams (strawberry, raspberry and damson), Butterscotch and Rocky Road slices from the amazing Yummy Yank, half a dozen huge free range duck eggs and a bun filled with delicious free range hog roast and stuffing from Happy Hogs to bring home for lunch.

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

Scrummy Rocky Road from The Yummy Yank

After scoffing, Craig and Shelley headed home for some sort of sporting race or match or something, then shortly afterwards Adam’s Dad arrived as he’ll be staying with us this week. He and Adam’s Mum are also making the move up from Hitchin later this week (he’s meeting with builders and things whilst Liz sorts out the movers) and we drove over to their new place to have a little look around the nearby High Street in the afternoon.

I cooked up a roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings for supper, followed by a fruit crumble and custard. The perfect way to end a lovely weekend!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Every Day in May: Food Glorious Food!

“Share your favourite recipe. Talk about the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted. Or maybe share you fave restaurant experience. Lets talking about food!”

Whilst I was tempted to use this opportunity to share a recipe or restaurant recommendation, as I’ve been meaning to write about the way I eat for, like, ever, I thought I really ought to do just that! I touched on this yesterday in my Go Green post, but today I’m going to tell you all about my being (a rather ponsey sounding) Ethicurean.

I’ve always loved my food. I like to eat lots, eat well and then eat more. I used to be fussy as a child but my Mum did spoil me with really good home cooking (her roast dinners and pies are to die for!) but once I moved away from home I got to being more adventurous and now there’s hardly any type of food I won’t eat. If any. And Marmite isn’t a food by the way.

And whilst I toyed with the idea of vegetarianism as a teen, I’ve always happily enjoyed eating meat and animal products. Until about five years ago.

It was a TV show that changed my views on how I ate. Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners on Channel Four, and the associated Chicken Out campaign spearheaded by the marvelous Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, offered an insight into the terrible standards in British chicken farming, and it alarmed me horribly. I very quickly decided that I would only eat free range chicken and free range eggs, as well as avoiding foods with eggs in (later it would become easier to find pasta which uses free range eggs, and when Hellman’s announced all their mayo was going to solely use free range eggs I think I cheered!). I was horrified how chickens were being treated, to get their eggs and to breed for their meat, and I just couldn’t stomach a meal that supported or encouraged that.

The following year there appeared another programme. Jamie was this time going to ‘Save our Bacon’ and in his TV show (also featuring the wonderful Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) he revealed the desperately poor state of pig farming. I was beyond horrified this time. I remember crying and vowing never to eat meat again. I remember the cries and shrieks of pigs being pushed around between vile metal bars, and wondering how any person could do such a thing.

I very quickly went off my food entirely, and gave up meat altogether for a few months. I felt responsible for those poor suffering animals, and ashamed that I had supported an industry that could allow such abhorrent behaviour.

Once I’d had time to absorb all this though, I really did come to the decision that as a human being and born omnivore, I would like to try at eating meat again, and should be able to if I was mindful. Whilst the farming that I’d seen in the programmes disgusted me to the core, I knew that there were farms out there who care about their animals, and I wanted to support them. And at the end of the day, if we were all vegan there would be massive economic ramifications, not to mention a lack of lovely fields filled with sheep and cows and whatnot!

I knew though that if I was going to go back to eating animal products, that I had to be as sure as I possibly could be that I wasn’t eating any of those poorly treated animals. That meant an holistic approach…not just eating whatever free range meat I could find, but also being mindful of all the other animal products hiding in all manner of foods.

I personally don’t see the point in vegetarianism for this reason, unless you’re just veggie because you don’t *like* meat of course! I find pescetarianism even more baffling, not to mention people who call themselves vegetarian and eat fish! I know I won’t make any friends by being this opinionated, but I do feel very strongly about this….if you won’t eat meat because of the impact on animals and their environment, why will you eat animal products (I have known SO many veggies who will eat cheese with rennet, Worcestershire sauce, and sweets containing gelatin!!) that have probably come from just as bad a process of welfare, if not worse?! Loads of things contain animal products, and although it’s a bit of a minefield, I have certainly been able to adapt very well to this mantra.

The biggest impact it’s had is on the amount of meat I eat. Whilst I do believe humans should eat meat, I don’t believe we need it with every meal! A common excuse I hear for not eating more welfare conscious meat is ‘I can’t afford it.’ My simple answer is ‘eat less meat then’. I manage just fine on one or two meat meals a week (although sometimes less) and so having cut my meat bill in half, I can afford to spend twice as much on the meat I do buy. Simple! There are so many healthy, easy, quick and yummy dishes to make without using meat, so I just don’t buy that particular excuse!

Another big thing is eating out. Whilst ten years or so ago it was quite normal to be vegetarian, I rather feel that it’s gone out of fashion of late! I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve gone somewhere to eat out and been offered only one very poor vegetarian ‘choice’ (it’s not a choice if there’s only one!!). And often the veggie dishes are totally bland, not worth the money and incongruous with the rest of the menu…I feel like there ought to be a vegetarian and vegan module at catering college as most chefs clearly lack in imagination for such dishes!

And whilst you’d expect by now that lots of restaurants would have taken on board a free range and/or organic animal product policy, even the likes of Jamie Oliver himself seem reluctant to commit! (NB. I can find no evidence that Jamie’s Italian restaurants for example serve free range meat….I have contacted them though to check and will update when I get a response!)

The result of this is that we don’t often eat out, which is a shame as we’d like to support our local restaurants, but when my choices are limited so pitifully and I’m asked to subsidise meat eaters by paying the same for my curry with no meat in it as someone’s exact same curry but packed with lamb, I’m afraid I’d just rather eat at home!

Another thing that’s been tricky is actually knowing when a product meets my decided standards. I’ve spent hours researching all the criteria that give a product free range or organic status, and whilst I can rest relatively easy if something is marked as such, there are so many other confusing labels that it becomes a real pain! Most of our friends and family  know that we eat this way, but unfortunately they are very often taken in by the sneaky marketing the supermarkets have come up with to make people feel better about buying certain things, whilst still remaining competitively priced.

I am often told (when I ask politely in a restaurant if the dish is free range and/or organic) ‘yes, it’s British’. ‘Aaaand???’ I’ll say….that’s just where it comes from!!! Unfortunately ‘British’ doesn’t mean the same as free range or organic…and neither does ‘Freedom Foods’, ‘RSPCA Monitored’, ‘Red Tractor’, ‘Outdoor Bred’ or ‘Outdoor Reared’. And whilst Waitrose and Sainsburys are fairly good, just buying any meat from them doesn’t mean it’s free range either! I’m often unsure as to whether I’m more cross with people for being sucked in by these labels (if it was Organic, don’t you just think they’d call it that rather than coming up with a new name for it?!) or with the people who make them up to try and fool us. Either way, I would certainly welcome some legislation to stop this misleading rubbish!

Probably the best impact this has had on me though is my health. Too much meat isn’t good for you, and ensuring you have a well balanced diet (which I’m now more mindful of) is the best anyone can really be expected to do for themselves. Because I have to think about all animal products, I don’t eat a lot of processed food because I can’t be sure where the animal products in them come from, and we now eat organic dairy products to have the best chance of supporting the right kind of farming in that respect (it’s not all about meat!).

I now appreciate where all my food comes from, I’m knowledgeable about it and I care.

Now you’re either thinking ‘what a goody bloody two shoes’ about here, or ‘she can’t possibly stick to that!’ And you’re possibly right on either count….I do feel a bit smug that I put so much thought into my food, especially because I have given up things that I really love to eat (if someone opened an all free range KFC tomorrow I would eat nothing else for a month…don’t judge me!)….and I don’t want to mislead anyone by claiming that I am 100% virtuous. I do slip up from time to time, eating sweets offered to me without checking what’s in them, and allowing myself a little leeway when on holiday for example. I’m no Saint, but I do try bally hard!

I hope I’ve not come across as too aggressive in this…I’m aware this is not my usual happy post about bunting or glittery shoes…but I do feel extremely passionately about animal welfare and I’ve been very glad to have this push to finally get me to talk about it!

Now, at risk of tipping over the aggressive line, I’m going to share a video that I personally think it’s important for anyone who eats non-free range meat to watch, in order to understand where their food can come from. I can appreciate that this is very extreme and that it will more than likely upset people, but I just feel that one shouldn’t eat something they don’t know the possible origins of. Needless to say, this comes with a personal warning and I’d ask anyone particularly sensitive or anyone vegan not to watch it. I’m not sharing this because I want to upset anyone or preach to them. That said, I think it’s jolly important that such reports are made and that people are aware:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TFdHAnpTYI

Ems x