Thursday, 12 August 2010


I've experienced a recent spate of people throwing their toys out of the pram, and in my direction. I don't understand it at all - why do people think it's appropriate to behave like this? First there was the juicer company who promised a 25% refund because they had sent out an ex-demo unit (eventually and after many unreturned phone calls) and then disappeared off the face of the earth; then the tenant who left without paying his last month's rent or any bills for the time he had been here (after much harassment I received a cheque, from his parents! for the rent, but still nothing for the bills).

Now in the last week the uselessness has been upgraded into a meanness. (My apologies, this may take some time.) A courier company whose bid I accepted on (like a reverse auction for transporting goods) to deliver a quite expensive item I had bought on ebay, from Nottingham to Brighton, has reduced itself to ultimatums and defamation after I left feedback on their profile about their uselessness. I heard nothing from this company for more than 2 weeks, after their initial email to get the seller's details - despite about 4 follow-up emails from me. So I emailed again to tell them I would be re-listing the job on Shiply since I had not heard from them. I then left negative feedback simply stating that I had had no contact from them despite repeated emails from myself - totally factual. About half an hour later I receive a phone call from them asking what is the problem, what is going on, we have your item and we are delivering on Wednesday! They told me they had received no emails and that they only make contact the day before delivery! Excellent system, clearly. After much wrangling and various calls they say that they did not get my emails because they had been sent from when on Shiply I am listed as Erm. Aren't they the same thing!? the next mornig they call again to say that they have spoken to their manager and I have two options. Either I change my feedback and they deliver for free, or if I won't change it then they will take the item back to the seller. Incredible! I can't believe that people really do things like that. Of course I refused and told them they would have to take it back - there's no way they were going to bully me into leaving them a false review! And they told me they had done nothing wrong, it was me who had done something wrong because i had left 'not genuine feedback'. Right. Then they said I would have to pay a £25 administration charge for cancellation!

I realised that I had caught them out, though, when looking back through the email I had sent them. The second email contained the details of where to collect the item - and guess what? they managed to collect the item! So they must then have received at least that message. When I pointed this out to the man I was dealing with he said oh no, we got the details from Shiply. Aha! This I know to be a lie, because all that was listed on Shiply, and on the ebay listing (Shiply lifts the details of the item from ebay), was the street name and postcode. I very much doubt they knocked on every door until they found the right one... He went quiet for a moment then said he's look into it and get back to me. When I next spoke to him he maintained the blatant falsehood and said he would send me a screenshot of his Shiply page when he got in that evening, along with my invoice for £25. Great I said, I'll be interested to see that. Of course no such thing appeared that evening. This morning, however, looking on their Shiply profile again (noting that mine isn't the only negative feedback!), I see that they have posted a reply to my comment! I am quoting this directly:

This person - completed lier!!! We NEVER received single email from her!! Went courier out to collect 3 times unsuccessfully!! Completed timewaster!!!

Clearly they are trying to enhance their professional profile with defamation and poor spelling/punctuation, but I fear they may have shot themselves in the foot there. It's not my problem that they are childish and have no idea how to run a business, but I am concerned that they are still in possession of my property! As far as I know, anyway...

There is another incident but I'll keep it brief after that rant - someone messaged me on OkCupid saying they liked the tattoo on my arm and could they have a jpg. I asked why, they said to look at, I said no (very politely), they replied with this:

That's pretty fucking mean, I must say. I'd have to guess you didn't read the bit in my profile that said ARTIST which means I can just copy the thing.

And to balance out your meanness I'm going to copy it an give it to my tattooist friends for free.

What a dick. Why did he even bother asking if was just going to steal it anyway. I was unnecessarily enraged by this incident - maybe because the tattoo in question is particularly special, and personal to me, because I share it with my sister and I don't want anyone else to have it! Still, I don't think that refusing to give out pictures of yourself to any tom, dick (in particular) or harry on the internet who asks is unreasonable.

Now I'm off to take some deep breaths and try to relax...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Veganising - by request!

First of all I'm shocked at my own turpitude in allowing so much time to pass between posts. So I've submitted to a recent request regarding my previous post - in which I commented several times that (cake) recipes required veganising. 'But how?! How do you veganise it?'

Aha! Now I can't claim any kind of credit for these morsels of information: I learned virtually all I know (with the exception of a little trial and error) from Isa Chandra Moskowitz! So to anyone in possession of a copy of Vegan with a Vengeance or the Veganimocon, I'll be preaching to the choir, but for the rest of you, I hope some of it helps!

Ok, so replacing dairy - very straightforward, milk = soya milk, yoghurt = soya yoghurt, butter = dairy-free spread, and so forth. If you don't have any soya yoghurt, apple sauce works quite well. Other non-dairy milks can in certain circumstances be used, unless - and this is very important, I learned the hard way! - your recipe relies on the curdling of said milk, because rice, oat, almond and so forth do not curdle when vinegar or lemon juice are added! Curdled soya milk is also good in the absence of yoghurt, or if the recipe calls for buttermilk, and generally as a binder/moistener for cakes. If you want you can probably get away with using oil instead of spread, but the quantities are more difficult to get right - you need less oil than spread. And it doesn't work in any recipe that requires the creaming of butter and sugar! The best method when using oil instead or marg is the 'mix wet, mix dry and combine' strategy. If you've got a blender, chuck all the wet ingredients in it and whizz it up - the oil emulsifies very nicely.

Now the difficult part!

Eggs. The little buggers... There are several ways to replace them, but one must exercise caution when selecting the appropriate replacement for a recipe!

- the old-fashioned bicarb of soda/baking powder and vinegar method
- flax seed (linseed) powder
- soya yoghurt
- the ubiquitous banana
- silken tofu
- egg replacer (bleurgh)

I won't even mention the last, we can all do better than that and there's really no need for consuming such a vile substance. The first is tried and tested but it can be tricky to get the ratio right - some of Isa's cupcake recipes use 3/4 tsp here, 1/4 tsp there, and so on! I don't have the patience for such experimentation, but a standard cake is less vulnerable than a cupcake so a teaspoon of baking powder plus a bit of soda depending on the acid content of your cake is normally what I do - alongside a cupful or so of soya milk curdled with a teaspoon of vinegar. There's no residual flavour and if you get it right this is the best way to mimic the leavening properties of eggs - it's an old wartime technique actually, when eggs and dairy were scarce (the source of my favourite chocolate cake recipe too!).

Flax/linseed is a good one too, but it has a distinctive flavour, a sort of 'healthy' taste (which I like in general but it's not quite right for Victoria sponge, for example), so use it in strongly flavoured or oaty-type things. One tablespoon of powder mixed with three of water and left too goopify for 5 minutes equals one egg. Then just throw it in with the wet ingredients. If you can't find the powder, you can leave whole linseeds to soak in water overnight - the water will get the same goopy effect.

Soya yoghurt is good when you want a really moist cake, and doesn't leave much taste - about 4 tablespoons for an 'egg' is I think what Isa recommends. A little extra never hurts though... This method doesn't leaven though, so if you want a light, structured end result you need to combine this with the baking powder method.

Ah. bananas, what would we do without you! Those really black and squishy ones that no one else wants are the perfect thing here. I tend to use one small banana per egg. They do a grand job but bear in mind that whatever you use these in (especially if you're using more than one) will, surprise surprise, come out tasting a little banana-y. All you have to do is mash it up really well, and then add it to the wet stuff. Things with banana in also tend to brown a bit quicker so don't panic and think you've overcooked it!

Silken tofu is a slightly expensive and occasionally elusive one, but great if you want extra richness and cakeyness. Blend or mash 3 tablespoons until as smooth as humanly possible for one 'egg', then add the other wet ingredients to it and blend again.

It's always a slightly creative process, you can never be sure if it'll work perfectly, but unless you're hankering after a very specific result the chances are a cake made with any of these egg replacements will be at least servicable! Things to remember are 1) the purpose of the egg and therefore your replacer - sometimes it's just binding, like in a muffin or quick bread (which all of these achieve), sometimes it's leavening too, as in classic cake recipes like the Vicky sponge or lemon drizzle (trickier), and sometimes recipes just stick eggs in where there's clearly no need whatsoever (banana bread and biscuits being the usual culprits). The other factor is the liquid content of the recipe - replacing margarine with oil and eggs with curdled soya milk is going to leave you with a significantly thinner batter, so you might need to add more flour. You can also combine more than one method (often a good idea) if you've got, say, 4 eggs to replace and have doubts about replacing them all with just soya yoghurt or just flax seed goo.

Happy veganising... And I'm no expert but if you have any questions I will do my best to help!