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The Heretic’s Guide to Vegan Cookery

First published on  Skepteco

by Graham Strouts

Update:Andy Murray has emailed me with glad tidings- he tells me “the book has just been picked up by a publisher last month so it’ll be coming out later this year as a updated, improved, more recipes and photos and a more cooky cookbook. Also on kindle too.”
Watch this space for updates!

More from the Zone5 Archives. This book is too tasty to resist!
Originally Posted on 12 November 2009 on the now-deceased Zone5 blog

Book Review: The Heretic’s Guide to Vegan Cookery
Modern animal-free recipes from around the world with added musings inspired by the Isle of Avalon According to Harmonically Challenged Cook
Andy Murray
Warning! Not suitable for Breatharians
The Good Elf Press 2009

Heretics guide to Vegan cookery

Astrology is an amazing tool to run your life by, without having to waste time with the fraudulent pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo of Science. Astrology explains wars, thunderstorms and plagues. We can even use it historically. For example, if we know exactly when and where Queen Elizabeth was born, we can find out exactly who she was without having to waste time on fictitious history books. With it we can even discover why Einstein was so damn clever. Astrology is way better than sex.

You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy Andy Murray’s brilliant Heretic’s Guide, which is packed with dozens of tasty simple recipes to satisfy even the most hardened omnivore at least some of the time, you don’t even need to have any great interest in cooking or even food. That is because for our amusement and philosophical delectation there are numerous passages in between the recipes giving us fascinating and hilarious perspectives from the Mecca of New Age beliefs in Britain, the town of Glastonbury near where the author lives.

While waiting for the pumpkin soup to cook or in between making preparations for the Hazelnut and Celery Risotto you will be able to work up an appetite by rolling around clutching your belly after reading the sure -to-become-classic passages “Reiki Reiki Rise and Shine” “Cooking with Astrology” or “Breeding Gurus for Profit”.

This book has it all really- great advice on cooking with fresh ingredients and all the usual good reasons to grow your own and buy local; loads of easy to follow recipes including a big choice of soups, salads and dips; and inspirational chapter on cooking in the great outdoors, including a useful guide to wild food; Posh Things to Do with Vegetables; Main Meals; Side Dishes and Extras; Desserts, and Cakes and Biscuits.

And then the alternative Contents covers everything else- Cults, Gurus, Satanism, Religion, Crop Circles, Homeopathy- nothing is sacred and nothing is spared the sharp rib-splitting egg-whisk of Murray’s irreverence.

Homeopathic Cookery Doubters of this form of cookery pour scorn on the fact that a diner might receive a drop of gravy and a shred of carrot on a plate. How can this be a meal, they ask? What they fail to understand is that carbon,the building block of all life, has a memory. A potentised meal maintains a complete carbon hologram, the information of the whole, even down to the smallest atomic sum of its parts.A homeopathic amount of food is of course more than sufficient to provide all the nutritional benefits that would be expected from a plateful of food, and puts paid to any shrill cries of fraud. Filthy skeptics who come to the homeopathic table having already made up their tiny minds will throw down their napkins and walk away still believing what they believe to be true, and little can be done to change their wrongness.

Even Murray’s own sacred Creed of Veganism is given the once-over. This is something I know a little about, because I once lived in a vegan community on the Welsh Borders. I was not especially into veganism per se and went there to learn to grow vegetables; I happily lived a vegan diet however, but was aware of an acute divide between some of my fellow communards, who seemed to be at each others throats all the time.

On one extreme there were the the vegans who were happy to eat anything so long as it was vegan, including skip food, vegan chocolate from Malaysia (or somewhere) and chip butties. This group of vegans were also keen to give over some of the best land we had to rescued sheep and aging dogs, and generally turn the place into an animal sanctuary.

All this tended to jar somewhat with the second group who apart from being rather snobby in their choice of edibles- Vegan Organic Wholefoods only, no white flour allowed, lots of Miso- didn’t seem to like animals at all anywhere near them. Wild animals were OK in their own wild homes, but no pets, farm animals or incontinent retired donkeys of any kind permitted.

Murray gives a total of 7 Vegan groups, including the Fat Vegan, the Sensitive Vegan and the Style Vegan, but presumable fits into he first category of The Common Vegan:

The most widespread of all vegans, the common vegan has been quietly animal free for years and still hasn’t died. Usually healthy, fit and happy, they tend to be quite normal, although sometimes a little willowy to stand in a strong wind.

For Murray, veganism might well play a role in a sustainable future, but is mainly just about bloody good food. While no longer a Vegan myself, my animal-free taste buds have been re-awakened by the Heretics Guide and who knows, so may some of my Chakras.

And with that I think Ill go and make a quick Potato Rosti.


SNAP Challenge Gourmet: Sneaky Blender Tomato Sauce

A recent report from the USDA makes a number of disconcerting observations about American’s relationship with vegetables. Some of their concerns, I don’t share. I see no problem with pairing heaping portions of dark green, leafy vegetables with generous amounts of fat and proper seasoning with good salt. The broad brush strokes however should be distressing to anyone. When we are talking about the average vegetable intake of the average American, we are talking about ketchup, salsa, nacho toppings, pizza toppings, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and lettuce and tomato on burgers. For most, the closest they are getting to a dark green vegetable is the pickle.

In order to help remedy that situation (in some small way) while meeting people where they are at, I offer a tomato sauce recipe that can be used on pizza or pasta. It was designed for the North Hartford Community Kitchen as has helped dozens of picky eaters increase their vegetable consumption without complaint or constraint. The recipe is dirt cheap, dirt simple and a dirty trick on those that don’t like squash, arugula, peas, carrots, green beans, lima beans, parsley or whatever else you want to inflict on them.

2 28 oz Can Tomatoes, crushed
10 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Mixed Frozen Vegetable (thawed)
2 Cup Frozen Butternut Squash (thawed)
1 Cup Arugula, rough chop
1 Cup Italian Parsley, rough chop
2 Cup Fresh Basil, rough chop
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt

1. In a pan heat the garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes without browning.
2. Pour the garlic/oil mixture into a blender or food processor with the tomatoes.
3. Blend for a minute. Add the other ingredients one at a time, blending for 30 seconds each until mixture is smooth.

Downloadable pdf recipe card

Speaking of salsa y ketchup.

Bon Apetit!

Birds and Bees Power Bars


In my continuing effort to spur consumption of oats and save the world, I present you with the recipe for Birds and Bees Power Bars. This is a recipe that I developed for the North Hartford Community Kitchen for the week when we did “Cooking With Kids”. I was trying to come up with a sweet snack that was relatively nutrient dense and didn’t break the bank. It’s got a glycemic load of 11, an excellent omega 3 to omega 6 ratio and is packed with minerals. Not bad for a chocolate bar.

Birds and Bees Power Bars

1 Cups Peanut Butter
½ Cup Raw Unfiltered Honey
¼ Cup Molasses
1 TB Butter
1 TB Cinnamon
¾ Cups Walnuts
½ Bag (7 oz) Coconut Flakes
1 Cups Oats (or Rolled 5 grain cereal)
¼ Cup Sunflower Seeds
¼ Cup Pumpkin Seeds
½ Cup Ground Flax Seeds
½ Cup 10 Grain Hot Cereal (or 7 or 9 grain)
1 Bags (10 oz) Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

1. Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Toast Oats, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts and Coconut in oven for 5 minutes.
3. In a sauce pan, simmer Peanut Butter, Honey, Molasses and Butter for 5 minutes.
4. Combine and mix dry ingredients except for Chocolate. Divide into two mixing bowls.
5. Combine the wet and dry mixtures in a bowl and mix. If mixing by hand, divide Peanut Butter
mixture between the two bowls and mix well. Combine the mixtures and finish mixing.
6. Press into a buttered cookie sheet. You can cover with wax paper and roll with a rolling pin or
just work it with your hands until it’s even and fairly flat.
7. Bake for 6 minutes.
8. Cover with chocolate chips and bake for 4 minutes.
9. Take out of the oven and spread the chocolate evenly.
10. Set in refrigerator to set. Cut and serve at room temperature.


1. Add dried banana chips.
2. Add dried cranberries, blueberry, papaya, raisins and/or other dried fruit. Skip the chocolate.

A printable PDF of this recipe can be found here.

Nutrition info can be found here. (10 grain cereal is in place of oats. I was trying to approximate the 5 grain cereal I first used in this recipe)



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DJ Donpasta Wants to Save Salume for Posterity. Who can blame him?

The New York Times:

On a recent brisk March afternoon, he came to this fishing town on the Amalfi Coast and stood amid rows of homemade pork sausages, some covered in hot pepper flakes, that were strung from the low ceiling of a work space. “What do you put in — do you put in the ear?” he asked Antonio Polverino, the sausage maker.
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“No, not the ear,” answered Mr. Polverino, 64, a retired construction worker with thick hands. “This is all meat, ground meat. The heart, and lungs, too. This you eat dry.”

It is traditions like these that Mr. De Michele worries are slipping away. He put his mission this way: “I wanted to explore memory — how memory-based identity persists, exists, gets lost; to take a snapshot of Italian working-class cooking today.”

Cooking shows like “Master Chef,” which has been replicated in Italy, “take away someone’s awareness, his identity,” he said. He pointed to the coastline.

“Here, a person defines himself through hot oil with garlic and anchovies, and is proud of that,” he said. “ ‘Master Chef’ tells you that that’s no good, that you need to do something cool.”

Mr. De Michele’s research is sponsored in part by the Bologna food association Artusi, named after Pellegrino Artusi, the author of an 1891 cookbook that was one of Italy’s first. He has asked Italians to send in their old family recipes to his blog, Artusi Remix. The end result of his travels will be a book commissioned by the Italian publisher Mondadori. But he is also traveling with a videographer for a possible documentary — and for his trademark performances, which often combine a D.J. set with monologues about food and footage of people talking about food traditions.

SNAP Challenge Gourmet: Homemade Muesli

After yesterday’s post reacting to the increase in the cost and environmental benefits of oats, I thought I’d better share my ‘recipe’ for homemade muesli, along with a breakdown of prices.


Oats 1.5 lb .89/lb $1.33
Raisins .5 lb 3.59/lb $1.80
Sunflower Seeds .3 lb 3.99/lb $1.20
Bran Flakes .25 lb 1.75/lb $ .40
Corn Flakes .25 lb 1.75/lb $ .40
Wheat Germ .1 lb 2.49/lb $ .25
Flax Meal .1 lb 2.69/lb $ .27
Total 3 lb 1.88/lb $5.65

Date pieces were $2.79 but the bin was empty.

Just mix everything up in a big bowl and then put it in storage containers. Refrigerate or freeze the sunflower seeds, wheat germ and flax meal that you don’t use.

The bran and corn flakes are boxes of store brand cereal. The flax meal and wheat germ were from Bob’s Red Mill, found in the cooler section of the hippie/yuppy aisles. The rest is from the bulk bins. I’m really lucky to live two blocks from a none upscale grocery with bulk bins and a great hippie/yuppy section.

The good news is that the 20 cent per pound increase in oat prices at the pump only raised the price of muesli by 10 cents a pound. The bad news is that my Fred Meyer stopped carrying non-organic raisins in the bulk bin, so my raisin cost went up around a dollar a pound. (Bulk organic oats are $1.79)


Comparison shopping

Fred Meyer Muesli $.2.61
Bulk Bin Muesli $3.79 200%
Trader Joe’s Blueberry Muesli $3.79 200%

Fun additions for the 1%

Dried Cranberries $3.79 139%
Dried Currants $4.19
Granola $3.49
Almond Pieces $6.49
Pumpkin Seeds $5.79
Dried Blueberries $14.99

I don’t understand the high price for dried blueberries. Blueberries are expensive, because they are perishable and labor intensive to handle. Dried blueberries are neither. They are presumably from the part of the harvest that doesn’t make the grade to sell fresh. So the high price on the supply side is puzzling. And the flavor profile of dried fruit tends to converge on a similar tangy sweetness. So I don’t see how the product differentiates it’s self from currants or craisins enough to justify a $10/lb price premium. If somebody can explain that one to me, I’d love to understand the market for dried blueberries.

3 Highlights from Michael Ruhlman’s review of Deborah Madison’s new cookbook

dmvegcooking A fine review of what I’m sure is a fine book.

Ms. Madison is not a vegetarian, and meat figures in more than one of her other cookbooks. But it was Ms. Madison—as a founder of the San Francisco restaurant Greens, which opened in 1979—who gave America its first taste of delicious menus of food that deliberately did not include any meat or fish. Having cooked for two years at Chez Panisse, probably the first American restaurant to focus on seasonal, local ingredients, and having later been a student (and cook) for many years at the San Francisco Zen Center, of which Greens was a part, Ms. Madison created arguably the first vegetarian restaurant to appeal to everyone.

I recently emailed Ruth Reichl, who I knew had written about California’s restaurant scene in the 1970s and ’80s, asking what she recalled of Greens when it opened. “It was a very big deal,” she responded. “The only vegetarian restaurants at the time were horrible macrobiotic places, and along comes this beautiful place on the water with such delicious food. James Beard and Chuck Williams were both fans, as I recall. Marion Cunningham too.”

I was thrilled to see that her brief discussion on knives, originally subtitled “Your Most Important Tool,” is now called: “Your Other Most Important Tool.”

What does she now recognize as your most important tool? “Your hands.” Thank you, chef.

Then she wrote a book to figure out what understanding such botanical connections could mean to a cook: “Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening With Twelve Families From the Edible Plant Kingdom” (2013). “When we look closely at the plants we eat and begin to discern their similarities,” she writes in the introduction to this substantial and lovely volume, “that intelligence comes with us into the kitchen and articulates our cooking in a new way.” She considers lily (including onions), grass, mint, knotweed (including rhubarb), legume and morning glory (sweet potatoes), among other groups of foods.

I loved her chapter on the alluring and dangerous nightshade family: belladonna (deadly nightshade), eggplants, husk tomatoes, peppers and chiles, potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco. The alkaloids in these plants can be toxic, yet it’s hard to imagine a kitchen without peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Ms. Madison gives us history, botanical facts and, ultimately, recipes. And guess what? These related ingredients—eggplants and tomatoes and potatoes and peppers—pair fabulously well for countless dishes.

It is astonishing (and delightful) to learn that the cabbage family, which she calls “the sometimes difficult crucifers,” includes such diverse plants as arugula, bok choy, cauliflower, collards, horseradish and wasabi, tatsoi and turnips. And not a poisonous plant among them.

You are in good hands here.

The SNAP Challenge Gourmet | Dented Can Chili

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The other day I was in the market, grocery shopping and as I was grabbing a half gallon of milk, I glanced in the dented and discarded bins. I often peek, but have never bought anything but soup vegetables. Instead of the usual completely useless crap, there was a pile of canned goods. I took a closer look. Chili. Black beans. Refried beans. Tomato puree. Hmmm. White beans. More chili. This is starting to look like a plan.

Here’s what I scooped up.

Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Hormel Beef Chili with Beans .69¢ (reg. $1.29)
Dennison’s Chili with Beans .89¢ ($1.83)
Rosarita Refried Beans .49¢ (reg. $1.00)
S&W White Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
S&W Black Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
Hunts Tomato Puree .69¢ (reg. $1.33)

For a grand total of $5.72 and a savings of $5.51.

How to bring this pile of salty swill up to some semblance of acceptable nutrition, wholesomeness and deliciousness without a lot of effort or spending?

I’ve got onions and fresh garlic at home, so first stop is a 28 oz. can of store brand diced tomatoes. $1. Then a big sweet potato. .69c. Next stop Trader Joe’s for a one pound bag of frozen red, yellow and green bell pepper strips. $1.69 (What can I say. My building has a walk score of 100).

Big pot. Chop and sauté two onions. While those are going, chop and add frozen peppers. After ten minutes, add a few cloves of chopped garlic for five minutes. Dump in all the cans. Add two tablespoons of New Mexico chili powder. I get the packets in the Mexican section, much cheaper. Peel and grate in the sweet potato. Heat through and simmer for an hour.

I also had some frozen corn that I thought about tossing in but didn’t. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

Add in $1.00 for the ingredients for home and the grand total looks like:
$10.10 (the amount Obama is proposing for the minimum wage. Coincidence? You be the judge.) That worked out to about $1.44 a quart or 28 servings at .36¢ a serving. It took about 12 minutes to get in the pot. An hour and half on the stove with occasional stirring. Less than ten minutes to clean up and break the chili into plastic containers for freezing. Just over one minute per serving.

Let me emphasize that opening the cans was the hardest part.

So what was the verdict? My room mate cooks for a living. He’s no push over. Around lunch time the next day, the call came out from the kitchen, “What’s in this chili, it’s great.”

“You don’t want to know.”

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