Tricks and treats

Have you been looking at the days fly by on your calendar, noticing that it’s nearly the end of October, and remarking that I haven’t yet posted about the UK Vegan Food Swap? No? Thought not.

However, it is high time I posted about this month’s exchange of weird and wonderful vegan goodies!

When I saw that I had drawn the name of Mellissa, the founder and owner and “Chief Cupcaker” at Ms. Cupcake, I knew I’d have to be a little more creative. As a Canadian, I knew she had probably come from a place with far more exciting vegan treats than London, but living in London and working in Brixton, she definitely had access to at least all the vegan treats I’d have seen around. I was going to have to make something – but what do you make for one of the most renowned makers of all things delicious and vegan?

I’ve had a hankering to try my hand at some Halloween-themed goodies as I’ve never really “done” Halloween and it seems like the perfect excuse to muck around in the kitchen – not having to make anything that tastes particularly exceptional but rather being creative and having fun. Perfect. I also hedged a bit of a bet on Mellissa having enjoyed much more enthusiastic Halloween celebrations over the other side of the Atlantic than we get here, and thought she might enjoy a bit of silliness with her treats.

Also, I find all the Halloween treats available (like Christmas and Easter treats), besides being very much non-vegan, just quite soulless in their industrial packaging and cartoon characters and multibuy offers. It just doesn’t excite me.

So I got to work, and rapidly got more and more excited thinking up different ways to package it all up.

October UK Vegan Food Swap

Most of the parcel, to be honest, was fairly standard ingredients but hopefully the fun was in the packaging: blanched almonds for “Witches’ Finger Nails“, udon noodles for “Maggots & Worms“, assorted sweets for “Worms, Caterpillars, Etc” (as they looked like neither but I couldn’t resist putting some fizzy cola laces and multicoloured belts in), and a scattering of chocolate limes to add some shiny green beetle-ness to the mix.

October UK Vegan Food Swap

I am particularly proud of my pièce de résistance, the “Bloody Eyeballs“. I toyed with trying the Eyeball Ravioli from Olives for Dinner, which look fantastic, but I wasn’t sure how well I would execute them and then how well they would travel. So I went for some marzipan eyeballs with chocolate-chip pupils. I had wanted to find red licorice bootlace to make veins or at least creepy red irises, but there was none to be found anywhere (note to self: start keeping stock of red licorice bootlace). So I left them plain and actually found them quite effective-looking, especially when I piled them into a jar topped with a bit of gauze (and I knew that skull hairband would come in handy!) . They were still missing a splash of bloody colour though – so at the last minute I decided to hell with clean fingers (sorry, Mellissa!) and smeared some rich berry jam in there which actually turned out much better than I had hoped!

October UK Vegan Food SwapProbably the most interesting items in the package were the King Soba Black Rice Noodles, which I know I have sent in other parcels before and hate repeating myself, but they are such a nice product and anything black is a winner here! I toyed with calling them something along the lines of “Petrified Worms”, as they will look much more worm-like once cooked, but I thought we had a good representation of creepy-crawlies and went with “Witches’ Broomstick Bristles” instead – maybe they are magical broomstick bristles which turn into worms upon contact with hot water. Whatever.

And then I couldn’t resist some Happy Kale kale chips which, again, I have sent too many times but they’re just so good! I bought the carob and coconut flavour instead of the BBQ, as I had originally planned to make a platter with kale chips lining the dish like some sort of creepy lettuce, topped with the other items, but then realised the logistics of transporting this across London and thought I would leave them in their package and let Mellissa’s imagination run wild (or allow her to eat them on the way to or from work… more practical in a sealed bag). I called them “Witches’ Hair“.

I really did need some more blood in there at this point, so I made up a batch of my BBQ tomato ketchup relish – a slightly thickened, sweet, rich and smoky tomato sauce. Obviously, jarred and marked “Blood“. I didn’t take a photo because it was late and lighting is awful in our place, and it was essentially just a jar of red stuff.

Lastly, I needed some “treats” to balanced out the “tricks” and I had picked up a few interesting snacks whilst in Southampton – so in went a Riolife Açaì bar, a fruit and oat bar, and a packet of Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwiches which I haven’t tasted yet (I did pick up a packet for myself, but wasn’t feeling well so didn’t get to test) and which I figure could be incredible or horrendous. If it’s the latter, sorry Mellissa! They all went in the bag in a separate envelope so as not to detract from the Halloween theme.

I had so much fun putting this parcel together, and though I may possibly have exceeded the budget (I genuinely don’t know though), I saved on postage costs and it gave me an excuse to visit the shop and buy some cupcakes – on my birthday too, so it was all pretty perfect! Did anyone else send or receive a Halloween-themed parcel?

As for me, I got a great parcel as usual, this time thanks to Rebecca of Rebecca’s Cakes!October UK Vegan Food SwapThe first thing I saw when I opened the box was those Fairfields Farm sweet potato crisps and had the package contained nothing else, I would have been over the moon anyway. I love those things!

The next items to catch my eye were the homemade cupcakes – I got very excited by the multicoloured sprinkles, and by the fact that one is clearly peanut butter. As it turns out, the flavours are banana split on the left, and peanut butter on the right. If ever there were two cupcakes for me it’s those! (The banana split cupcake survived within the house for about three hours and BOY was it good – moist sponge, smooth and creamy frosting, perfect cake to icing ratio for my tastes, and most importantly, not cloyingly sweet – loved it!)

After devouring an entire bag of similar crackers just over a month ago, I was really happy to see the Sanchi Samurai crackers, and the Infinity Foods Japanese rice crackers.

I’m curious about the Asda Meat Free Mexican Style Chilli – I’ve never really used dehydrated meal packets before (apart from one Duke of Edinburgh-style expedition over ten years ago now… wow, am I that old already?!) but the ingredients look reliable enough, and it will be just what Ben and I need on those late nights when it’s cold outside and public transport had not cooperated with our efforts to get home, and we want a proper meal but the kitchen has been turned into a sticky bombsite… Lastly, I’m super intrigued by the Lemon & Ginger FruitBroo – just a few drops in some hot water and you get a delicious caffeine-free winter-warming drink. Just my thing!

Now, I normally exchange blog URLs with my swapper and swappee… This time, however, I didn’t give Rebecca my blog URL – so I’m really amazed and confused at how each item is so completely right for me. Especially those crisps! And the banana and peanut butter cupcakes! Thank you, Rebecca!

My friend Steph asked me the other day what the most exciting thing I ever got in a food swap parcel was, and I couldn’t answer. You all know I love this whole thing. You all know I think you should sign up. Go do it now – and thanks as always to Mitsu and Sasha for organising it!