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RECIPE: Vegan Mushroom Miso Soup

Miso soup is one of these dishes that sounds fancy, but is actually very easy to make. Which is a good thing, as miso soup isn't usually vegan and is not a safe option at a Japanese restaurant. It contains fish stock, and even when it's marked with a V I don't order it - 'cause, you know, a lot of people still think vegetarians eat fish.

Luckily the fish isn't an essential part of miso soup. The essential part is the miso paste - and that comes from a plant! When picking your miso paste, the paler the colour the lighter the taste so if you've never tried it, that's my best advice. Miso is delicious but it can be an acquired taste and better in smaller portions (miso soup is always a side or starter). 

Below is the recipe I follow when making it at home. Chinese Supermarkets are the best place to pick up most of the ingredients. Much, much cheaper than an average health food store.

1/4 block of Morinaga firm silken tofu*, cut into cubes
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
handful endoi mushrooms
10 brown bunashime mushrooms
2 dessert spoons miso
4-5 strips wakame
one green onion, sliced

1. Start by adding the seaweed to a pan of boiling water. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes. 
2. While that's simmering, prepare the tofu. You're working with firm tofu here but it's always a good idea to remove excess moisture to make sure it keeps its shape. To do this drain the liquid from the packet and wrap tofu in kitchen roll. You might have to repeat this step a few times. 
3. Taste the water to ensure it now has a flavour to it. Some people like to leave the seaweed in, but I hate the texture of cooked seaweed so at this point I take it out and discard.
4. Prepare the miso by mixing with some water until it is a thick paste. 
5. Add the green onion and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add the miso last. 
7. Pour into the separate bowls and gently add tofu cubes on top

If you're a fan of miso soup, what is your preferred way of cooking it? 

* The tofu was a PR sample. 
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A drive through Aberdeenshire (with independent shopping and vegan food)

I've said this before about the place I grew up: Aberdeen, well, I don't live as an adult for a reason - but Aberdeenshire? Stunning scenery and quaint towns with beautiful independent stores. That's why even though I grew up on the border of the city/shire I prefer to say I'm from the latter. 

In the past fortnight I've visiting at my parents' house in their village located not far outside of the Granite City. During this time me and my mum went on a drive starting in Cults and ending in Inverurie - if you're familiar with the geography of North-East Scotland it won't surprise you that this drive took five hours (including stops to explore). Along the way I re-visited childhood haunts, and discovered small settlements I didn't even realise existed. 

We started off in Cults. Cults is an upmarket suburb of Aberdeen that sticks out to the west of the city and while it is mainly a residential area there are a few gems on the main road. I reviewed the Terrior Deli two years ago (and it's still there) but this time I took more notice of the Chest Heart & Stroke charity shop a few doors down. I've been here a few times and it usually has some nicer pieces than other charity shops. This time I picked up Fault in Our Stars for £1 and a blazer/cardigan (that was originally H&M) for £10. Charity shops can be hit or miss, but this store is definitely a hit. 

Moving on to Bieldside. A while ago through the Vegan Aberdeen Facebook Group I became aware of a health food store located in the Newtown Dee Village. This is a tranquil community with assisted-living for individuals with learning disabilities. I had always been aware of it but had never known about the café and shop open to the public. I'm glad I stopped by because this is a big shop and contains some brands I've only been able to buy online, and less common vegetables. The coffee shop also has soya milk for any vegans wanting a caffeine fix.

After this we headed out of the Aberdeen City boundaries and sped onto the countryside. 

First stop was somewhere my mum rates highly but I didn't know about, Milton of Crathes. This is just outside of Banchory where independent shoppers will find homewares, pieces of original art and independent jewellery among beautiful views of the River Dee. Now while my childhood had closer links to the River Don (Aberdeen actually means the "mouth of the Dee and the Don") I think the River Dee is just so much more scenic: it remains wider for longer and more has been done to pave dedicated walking paths along its banks.

After this we headed into the nearby town of Banchory for...a trip the garden centre. While gardening isn't a hobby I've managed to fully embrace because, well, I don't have a garden; I do still love making a mental checklist for that future 40-acres I'm planning to own. 

However, we weren't just there to look at water fountains and decide on next spring's flowerbed, we were here to try the vegan food. A while back I heard a rumour that a garden centre in Banchory were offering gluten free and vegan food in their restaurant. I didn't actually catch the name of the garden centre so we were driving out to Banchory with our fingers crossed. Luckily they had some Mediterranean Quinoa marked out as vegan. I know this isn't the most original vegan dish in the world but I'll never fault a restaurant for at least acknowledging alternative diets - especially when they're not located in a major city. My review is positive as the quinoa was perfectly done and contained enough extra ingredients to give it flavour and the ability to fill a stomach.

When we got in the car my mum announced she was taking me into the centre of Banchory to a place that would definitely stir childhood memories. As we drove up the main street I recognised a park we used to stop while I was young - I had completely forgotten where it was. Bellfield Park is right in the middle of Banchory and has a small 'amusement centre' and traditional play park. I seem to remember a giant slide at some point, however my mum thinks I'm imagining somewhere else - does anyone else remember this park in the 90s and able to clear that up?

To close our trip we looped round to Inverurie which is to the north of the city. Inverurie was somewhere I was spent time as a child and teenager - it's one of the largest towns and some well-known brands have opened stores, so sometimes we'd go shopping there instead of heading into Aberdeen. But I don't think I've been in the town since I stopped permanently living in Aberdeenshire (which was 2008!). Since it was just after 4pm we had to make the most of our time and immediately head to the shop that had been the entire point of including Inverurie on our drive.

That shop was Butterfly Fabrics on West High Street. As you know I've recently gotten in sewing and I'm always looking for fabrics no one else will have, so an independent store seemed like the best bet. Here I picked up this beautiful Scottie Dog/tartan fabric that you can see below.

I also used this opportunity to do some Pokemon hunting. There's a square in Inverurie with a few stops and the lures got turned on at roughly 5pm. While the city of Aberdeen proved better (read my post on that!) if you're living near Inverurie it shouldn't be overlooked.

Do you know of any other hidden Aberdeenshire gems? 

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Rediscovering Amy Studt: why she still reigns supreme over my teenage CD collection

Think about your favourite musicians. Did you discover them as a teenager? For most of us the songs we hold the most tightly were released during these hormone filled years, even if the music itself wasn't all the revolutionary. Very few of these acts end up standing the test of time: many become one hit wonders, or disappear from the limelight to produce music that's aimed at a niche market rather than the masses. If I was to sit down with today's 13 year olds and speak to them about Busted, Blazin' Squad or even Blink 182 I'd probably be met with blank stares. 

For people my own age Amy Studt is a name that might not immediately ring a bell. To be honest, despite having had her songs on repeat at age 13 I had long forgotten about her. It was only while on a recent visit to my parents house that I came across her 2003 album False Smiles and remembered freaking out every time her song Misfit came on the radio. 

She was originally signed to Polydor and released her first single Just a Little Girl to the masses in 2002. It probably remains one of her most well-known to date and if you don't recognise the name of the song, you might recognise this video clip (or the music in it): 

However it was her second single that caught the eye of my 13 year old self and if a film of my life was ever made this song would feature. Misfit was her most commercially successful song and put her on the British public's musical radar (or at least the teenage radar). It was here that she was named "the British Avil Lavigne" - something that at the time I thought would be an accolade to print out and frame. 

Loading the False Smiles CD onto my laptop (the only thing I have these days that can play a CD) I realised something. The music took me back to my teenage years as associated memories flashed through my head but something differed Amy from Avril and my other teenage favourites. Amy Studt's music was actually good and I didn't take the CD back to Glasgow with me out of sheer nostalgia. 

The song Misfit was the standard "angry girl music of the indie rock persuassion" that was popular at the start of the 00s and I can see why the media made the Avril connection. But the rest of the album is full of meaningful lyrics that went beyond moaning that the world didn't understand her or having a crush on your teacher (thanks Busted!). The frustration sounded mature and as if Studt just had a few things she needed to get off her chest. 

This led me to Googling her name. Turns out she is still making music, albeit sporadically without the established music label to prop her up. She has left the commercial style of Misfit behind (unlike Avril who still makes music aimed at teenagers) but her new songs are reminiscent of the haunting sounds found on the her first album. Here's She Walks Beautiful, my personal favourite:

If you live in London you can still catch Amy performing from time to time. Follow her on Twitter to keep up to date with what she's up to. There have been whispers of a UK tour but we will have to see, but if she is coming to Glasgow/Edinburgh you can bet my high school year book I'll be there. 

And I won't be there for the same reason I'm attending a Good Charlotte concert later this month. Lifestyles of the Rich of Famous is fun and Predictable was once my 'moody at the world' song but neither belong in any Hall of Fame. I'll be there to relive my teenage years, not appreciate musical genius. 

Our teenage favourites always have a place in our heart - no matter how cringy they might be - simply because it was the music of our teenage years. But some artists remain on our radar because they do have musical talent, not just because it was the song played on the school bus every morning. For me, Amy Studt is one if these acts.

But for old times sake, here is Misfit:

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Playing Pokemon Go in Aberdeen

When you take a week off work to visit your parents in Aberdeenshire, the to-do list can expand quickly. Going for a family BBQ, visiting your 96-year-old grandmother (yep, my gran is pushing the big 100), stopping by your favourite independent shops, seeing how the place you grew up has changed and, erm, playing Pokemon Go. 

I've been avidly playing Pokemon Go since it was launched in July. I mean this seriously, I'm no casual player. I've occasionally spent a lunch break city sitting at the Clyde with the Pokenerds who - between us - keep the Pokestops continually loaded with lures. That's why when I visited my parents in Aberdeen recently going out on a Pokehunt in the Granite City was on my to-do list. 

My parents village itself is lucky enough to have three Pokestops and a gym (aka the local pub). The gym itself was also a plus because the Pokemon guarding it are nowhere near as powerful as the Pokemon in the city centre of Glasgow. Making it much easier to take over the gym and increase my own level. 

While I was very happy taking over the gym and finding an Evee on a regular residential street, there's only so much Pokemon hunting that can take place in a village. It was time to head into the city. 

Aberdeen Beach Esplanade

When I was brainstorming places to Pokehunt in Aberdeen, the beach stood out for obvious reasons. It's not far from the city centre, has water, is densely populated, and is home to plenty of landmarks that could be used for Pokestops. At a family BBQ my cousin's girlfriend confirmed that the beach was a popular spot and tipped me off to two close together Pokestops that regularly have lures on them. On my hunt I found the two stops she was on about - they are located on the beach walkway opposite the entrance to Cadonas. And yes, there were people sitting on benches just...waiting. I was low on Pokeballs so went for a walk before returning, but the Pokemon I collected within that hour were of an impressive standard.

Remember to also walk right along the beach. I found Pokemon at Footdee near the harbour and looking over to the Bridge of Don. 

Pokemon found: the beach was popular with electric Pokemon and I picked up several Voltrobs and Magnemites. I also found a Magneton - it took about seven Pokeballs and three razzberries to catch! I also caught an Exeggcute further along the beach heading towards the Bridge of Don. And a Doduo, Lickitung, Oddish and Shellder.

There was also a Geodude silhouette on my tracker, but it never appeared. My cousin's girlfriend said she caught an Onix here. 

Duffie Park

This was another area that I automatically assumed would be great for a Pokehunt. However - unlike the beach - I was left dissapointed. There were plenty of Pokestops so it was a great place to stock up but the only Pokemon were the common types I already have. Even when a lure was activated  I didn't catch anything I didn't already have. There was a gym by the entrance however that didn't have a high level Pokemon guarding it so I overtook it with my Starmie.

Pokemon found: a Meowth (beside the gardens), Drowzee, Weedle, Caterpie and Spearow. 

Union Terrace Gardens

This central garden looks like the ideal place to sit for some Pokemon with a sandwich. However, the small size of it lets it down. While I did catch a Magmar there's only three Pokestops so Pokemon cannot be lured as easily into the area. There's also a gym but it was guarded by a high level Pokemon. Maybe if I hung about longer I might have found something but nothing was showing up on my tracker (and I wanted to get to Plan 9 before it shut). 

Pokemon caught: Magmar. 

Union Street Graveyard

Out of all the places I stopped by this was the most fruitful. Two Pokestops at the entrance had lures on them so I literally just sat down and seen what came my way. And boy did some special Pokemon come my way! I left after the lures ran out but I noticed on my map a few minutes later that the lures had been put back on.

Pokemon caught: Jigglypuff, Gastly, Nidorino, Spearow, Clefairy, Krabby and Weepingbell. 

Victoria Park

I didn't play here myself but my cousin's girlfriend told me this is a Pokemon hotspot in Aberdeen. I'll let you decide if you want to try it out or not. 

Are there any other areas in Aberdeen good for a Pokemon hunt? Let me known and I'll check them out when I visit at Christmas.  

P.S. I'm planning to write up a Glasgow guide at some point, however because I live there I'll have the opportunity to make it more detailed. My Aberdeen guide to Pokemon hunting is literally based on the one day I spent driving around the city stopping off at different locations. 

Oh, and the rumour that different cities attract different Pokemons? Very true. 
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My favourite vegan burger so far (a review of Bread Meats Bread)

Some of you might know (if you follow me on my - currently - burger-infested Instagram, or have just chatted to me in real life recently) that I'm on the hunt for Glasgow's best vegan burger. Naturally this involves eating a lot of burgers - hence my burger-infested Instagram. I've gotten round a fair few of the vegan burgers of Glasgow now and I think it's only The Flying Duck I think I'm left to visit (plus re-visit restaurants so I can try the other burgers on the menu). I'm planning to write a top 5 list once I'm done but - and maybe I'll regret this - I'm going to jump the gun and let you know what's likely to take the number one slot. 

It's the falafel and beetroot burger at Bread Meats Bread (on St Vincent Street, better known as the Burger Mile for reasons I shouldn't have to explain).  

If you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh it's likely you won't need introduced to this burger establishment. It opened a few years ago and it seems as though everyone has been raving about it since. Little old me just assumed there was nothing for me there - but the vegan grapevine informed me that I was wrong. I checked out the menu online and discovered a veggie burger that could be made vegan by leaving the cheese or sauce off. When Alan was in Glasgow for Vanessa Carlton I informed him this was where we were heading for lunch the next day.  To my surprise, when I was handed the menu I discovered two vegan options....

I opted for the beetroot and falafel burger because it is different to everything else I've previously tried. Okay, falafel is something I've become very accustomed to as a vegan but beetroot isn't. The burger also came with chilli flakes - adding some extra kick. And I have to say the burger was delicious - different to what I've tried before and the chilli flakes did add a side-serving of spice (if you don't like spicy food you perhaps do want to stay clear, it was hot). 

The only negative thing to say about Bread Meats Bread is the price and how busy it can get. We arrived just after the rush and were sat immediately - however the queue started to build up again and I could feel eyes looking at me after we'd finished as I waited for Alan to come back from the bathroom! The burger also cost £8 but was very, shall we say, snack-sized. Don't get me wrong the patty was of very high quality so I understand why it couldn't be a fiver. But it is certainly a pay-day treat and you'll need to order a side if you're suffering from pandering hunger.

I know a few vegans who are put off by the open kitchen plan as you can sometimes smell the meat. I have a really weak sense of smell so this didn't bother me, but it is worth keeping in mind.

The burger itself was beautiful and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. 

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