Seaweed is in plentiful supply in the British Isles which does make you wonder why we don’t eat it more often. I hope your enjoy my interview with Jane who wondered and then set about setting up a seaweed business. I loved hearing more about her life and the really straightforward advice she offers women who are considering taking the leap of faith into a new business.

Seaweed Business

Tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years

I grew up in Cumbria with my mum and my sister. (My dad died when I was 2 years old). We were lucky to have a really outdoorsy upbringing with amazing access to the beautiful Lake District. I didn’t have any great love of food or interest in cooking as a young one, but I definitely developed a love of the outdoors which has never gone away.

What was your first career?

I had a seventeen-year career in the environmental sector – working for a number of environmental consultancies and then in local government. I did all sorts during that time – environmental impact assessment, environmental planning, renewable energy planning, and carbon management. I enjoyed it and learnt loads.

Where did your interest in food and seaweed come from?

I didn’t give food or nutrition much of a thought until my thirties, but once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop! Food and cooking became a source of huge pleasure and interest. I am an incorrigible experimenter in the kitchen. I enjoy looking at recipes for inspiration, but I find it almost impossible to follow them to the letter. I’m really into using food to optimise health, and trying to make food choices that benefit (or at least minimise negative impacts on) people and the environment.

I have always loved to be beside the sea, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to view the seaweed that grows around our shores as food. I had been talking to a friend who had worked for a stint on a seaweed farm in Japan about how incredibly nutritious it is, and why we don’t eat it much here. I went on a seaweed foraging course and started to learn which seaweeds were which, and about their different flavours, and my interest really grew from there. Seaweed suddenly presented a whole new and incredibly nutritious food group for me to experiment with, and experiment I did!

Foraging for seaweed is an absolute delight. I heartily recommend it. Once you start to see seaweed as food you can never look at the coast in the same way.

What led to you set up Octopus’s Garden Seaweed?

The more I got into seaweed, the more I wondered why we’re not all eating it on a regular basis. I found that there were quite a few businesses in the UK harvesting seaweed and selling it dried (either milled, or as whole fronds). But there was little in the way of seaweed from the British Isles being made into other products with seaweed as the main ingredient. I hadn’t realised that I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a business angle there.

For me, seaweed seemed to provide a way of joining up my passions for food, wellbeing and the environment. My two maternity leaves gave me some headspace (or at least – time not at work!) to develop my business ideas a bit. I experimented with all sorts of seaweed products – pesto, tapenade, tea, biscuits and crisps. But I initially settled on seaweed stock as a unique product which captures some of the key nutritional benefits of seaweed (particularly iodine) in a user-friendly way, and with relatively uncomplicated requirements in terms of packaging, storage etc.

Much food testing later, I felt about ready to start trying to sell the seaweed stock. It was impossible to find the time whilst working and juggling childcare, so I decided to take the plunge and leave my job. It felt like a massive leap into the unknown, and a big risk financially but I couldn’t help but think if I didn’t try, I would always wonder where it could have gone.

Seaweed business

Tell us about your products and why you think they are special?

I now sell two different products – Umami Drops, and Pickled Seaweed.

People said they liked my seaweed stock but wanted something more concentrated where the lovely flavour of the Dabberlocks seaweed is more intense, and that could be used as a condiment on finished plates of food. So the seaweed stock evolved into Umami Drops, which are super-concentrated drops of seaweed essence that provide a delicious sweet / savoury flavour burst (without the use of sugar or salt! Clever stuff, seaweed!) and act as a natural flavour enhancer. They work really well on avocado, seafood, stir fries, soups, cheese on toast etc.
Pickled Seaweed is a revolution for the pickle category! It is nutritious, refined sugar-free and bursting with fresh flavour. It makes a great accompaniment for seafood, sandwiches, toasties, cheese and biscuits, burgers, salads, and just about anything else! It is made with just four ingredients – including root ginger which gives it a real punch.

I think the products are special because they are genuinely unique; they make it easy to eat seaweed; they taste delicious and they are really good for you. They have been carefully developed with quality ingredients and clean eating in mind. Not only that, but seaweed is a fantastic choice environmentally. It doesn’t take up land or require any freshwater, pesticides or fertilisers, and it makes total sense for us to eat it here in the British Isles – endowed as we are with a long coastline with an abundance of beautiful seaweed. The seaweed used in my products is grown on ropes at sea in a Marine Conservation Zone in Northern Ireland.

The products are available on my Website – www.octopusgardenseaweed.co.uk

What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business for the first time?

Maybe it’s useful to think about what’s the worst that could happen, and if you’re willing to take that risk – then do it. Perhaps it’s useful to compare with the worst that could happen if you don’t do it, as well. For me – that would’ve been always wondering if I could have made a go of a seaweed business, but not doing it, and that wasn’t something I wanted to live with.

If you could recommend ONE book to women, what would it be and why?

Not just for women, but for parents (and their children) – I love many of the books by Dr Seuss. They never get boring to read and some of them come with really important messages packaged in an amazing way for children. If I had to choose just one it would be The Sneetches.

If you could recommend ONE website to women what would it be and why?

If like me you need regular reminders to be more present to the moment then I really recommend https://www.facebook.com/LifeWithoutACentre/. Reading these posts that pop up in my Facebook feed can really change my perspective on my day, and help me to remember to treat it as more than a list of tasks to be ticked off.

Victoria Bryceson is passionate about advocating a cruelty free, environmentally-friendly lifestyle and helping animals in need around the world. She is vegan and organises a series of Vegan Events UK festivals up and down the country. She is also founder of animal welfare and education charity Miracle’s Mission. Here she tells her story of how she became vegan and the benefits of adopting this compassionate lifestyle.

vegan

From vegetarian to vegan

“I became vegetarian 22 years ago when I first fully realised what meat was and where it came from. I also gave up eggs and wearing any leather clothing or footwear. This is the point when I made the connection that meat on my plate used to be a living breathing animal and I didn’t want to be any part of taking away an innocent and loving creature’s life, just to put food on my plate that I didn’t even need to be eating to survive. The only thing I continued to consume that came from an animal was milk as I was not educated about the dairy industry. About ten years ago I came to realise that the dairy industry is just as cruel if not more so, than the meat industry and I then became fully vegan and have never looked back. It was the best life decision that I have ever made and one that I just wish I had been born into. Becoming vegan was such an easy decision for me and the transition was so incredibly easy knowing that the food I was eating was no longer harming animals. Today with so many more vegan options and substitutes it is even easier to go vegan.

Vegan

Vegan variety as the spice of life

I am so happy in my life since going vegan. I am so at peace with the knowledge that I’m living an amazing life and not harming others to do so. I feel healthier, I have more energy and I do so much more with my life. I live the most fulfilling life, I have the very best purpose and I absolutely love living a vegan and cruelty free lifestyle. I don’t miss out on any foods that I ate previously as every single food type is now replaceable with a vegan version. Vegans can even eat many vegan and delicious versions of cheese, chocolate, scrambled, boiled and poached eggs and there are now so many different varieties of plant milk available we are really spoiled for choice! I get so excited every time I see a new vegan product because the more new products that are coming out demonstrate the growing demand, which is amazing. Since going vegan I have also transitioned my four dogs onto a vegan diet and they are now absolutely thriving and love their vegan food and vegan treats.”

Vegan Festivals

Her festivals feature all the food you’ve ever enjoyed but with the unhealthy bits taken out. You can try before you buy and sample foods that are so new they haven’t even hit the shops yet. You can also bathe vegan too – with a range of deliciously scented soaps and handmade bath bombs from brands like Iuvo Skincare. And if you’re feeling stressed from a busy week, you can have the chance to chill out in a relaxing yoga session.

There’s something for everyone – with lots of cool children’s activities and entertainment on hand to amuse the little ones. And if your teenager is into the latest trends you can check out cool designer vegan labels such as the gorgeous range of ‘Viva La Vegan’ hoodies and Tees. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes or boots, Alternative Stores will be on hand to help. Plus there’s a massive range of gifts and goodies including candles, jewellery, and even treats for animals. It’s also a great place to shop if you’re looking to go plastic-free.

If you’re looking to get more in-depth, the festivals also feature useful talks on nutrition and the vegan lifestyle as well as some inspiring, fun cookery demos to get you started.

Helping animals in need

Victoria runs her events in partnership with animal welfare charity, Miracle’s Mission. She explains “I’m really looking forward to our exciting new series of festivals. They’re set to be even bigger and better than last year’s. We received so much positive feedback last year and there’s now so much demand that our festivals are becoming regular sell-out events. I think it’s partly because people really love the friendly atmosphere. And also because it’s one of the best places to network and meet others who are vegan-curious too. The wonderful thing about our events is that they’re for everyone whatever your lifestyle. Just come along and bring your friends for a great, fun day-out. You’ll have everything you need there, whether you’re looking for some retail-therapy, some ‘me’ time, precious family time or just a lovely meal out with some friends.”

2019 line-up of events across the UK
Saturday 2nd March – Essex Vegan Festival
Saturday 9th March – Glasgow Vegan Festival
Saturday 23rd March – Leicester Vegan Festival
Saturday 6th April – Northern Vegan Festival – Manchester
Saturday 20th April – Portsmouth Vegan Festival
Saturday 27th April – Nottingham Vegan Festival
Sunday 12th May – Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival – Leeds
Saturday 8th June and Sunday 9th June – Brighton Vegan Summer FEST
Saturday 29th June – Liverpool Vegan Festival
Saturday 6th July – Plymouth Vegan Festival
Saturday 20th July – Bath Vegan Festival
Saturday 31st August – Dorset Vegan Festival
Saturday 14th September – North Wales Vegan Festival – Wrexham
Saturday 12th October – Watford Vegan Festival
Saturday 2nd November – Manchester Vegan WinterFest
Saturday 9th November – Bath Vegan Festival
Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November – Glasgow Vegan Festival
Sunday 1st December – Portsmouth Vegan Festival
Sunday 8th December – Great Yorkshire Vegan WinterFest – Leeds
Saturday 14th December – Essex Vegan Festival

Entry is from just £3 (under 16’s free) and this includes entry to all areas and activities. Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, £15, include fast track entry and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers can be purchased in advance but sell out quickly. For more information please visit www.veganeventsuk.co.uk or www.facebook.com/VeganEventsUK

The pride of Britain is perpetuated through its ability to immortalise regional traditions. Etiquette would encourage us to dive in to a local pub in a new town and order the local delicacy, the server would even be happy to fill you in on the inception of the dish and how it revolutionised until modern day, as after all, it’s a history lesson as well as a tasty dining experience!

Here, with the help of Alnwick restaurant Hog’s Head Inn, we take a brief look at some of the country’s weird and wonderful local dishes and how they came to be.

Pease Pudding

The people in the North East love their food. They love their food so much so, that there are 31 Greggs stores in the city of Newcastle, according to the Foods Standards Agency, that’s a lot of pasties!

While its appearance isn’t anything to scream about, don’t let the appearance of this savoury staple of Northumberland deter you from giving it a go, and certainly don’t say pease pudding’s name in vain in a Newcastle pub!

Made by boiling a mixture of legumes (a mixture of peas, lentils, chickpeas and varied beans) then mixed with water, salt and spices into a paste. Usually paired with a joint of ham or bacon and sandwiched this is the much-loved pick-me-up and the Geordie version of caviar.

Although its origins aren’t exactly known, it is said that before potatoes arrived in the British Isles, pease pudding was one of the main filler for many dishes but we just loved it that much we decided to keep it going in many industrial areas and still to this day!

Lancashire hotpot

This wholesome stew is a proud dish made by the working classes of North West of England with plenty of regional heritage. Before industrialisation, the scrags or cheaper cuts of mutton, were stewed slowly over a low fire, which was regularly attended to by the members of the family over the course of a day, due to unquestionably long working hours.

Topped by thinly sliced potatoes and onions, the slow cooking process allows the flavours of the meat to soak into the potatoes, creating an enriching taste from start to finish, and affordable for the families of post-war Britain to come home to, think Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters.

Stargazy pie

Not for the faint-hearted, this unusual dish hails from a small fishing village in Cornwall called Mousehole. Made from a variety of different fish but primarily pilchards, the name stems from the heads of the fish protruding through the pastry crust appearing to be ‘gazing at the stars’, if you will, while their bodies are skinned and boned and smothered in a creamy sauce.

In fact, legend has it that on December 23, every year, the Cornish village celebrates Tom Bowcock’s Eve. Back in the 16th century, when frightening storms hit the coastline and the main source of food was from the sea, fishermen weren’t able to land their catch due to the extreme conditions, but one man – Tom Bowcock, stepped forth and landed enough to feed the whole village, thus filling several pies with several types of fish. Local pubs now serve the dish for free on this day to immortalise this tradition.

Eton mess

An elegantly light, traditional English dessert, Eton Mess is made up of strawberries, cream and smashed meringue. Believed to have originated at Eton College in the 1930s in the school’s tuck shop, the dish is served at the annual cricket match against the pupils of Harrow School, but is now recognised as a nationwide dessert. ‘Mess’ may refer to the appearance of the food, owing primarily to the broken meringue that makes up the majority of the meal.

Chicken tikka masala

This may come as a surprise to some however this is a perfect illustration of the way us Brits absorb and implement external influences into our culinary landscape. Historically, tikka’s origins lie truly in India. The word translates to “bits”, referring to the chunks of chicken we eat today that are marinated in yoghurt and spices before being cooked over charcoal on skewers in a tandoor oven. There is the counter argument that we can all sympathise to that this is merely an adaptation of a foreign dish already in circulation, but if a painting was enhanced and added to would that make it that same original painting?

It was only in an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, when a customer declared their wishes to have their chicken tikka smothered in a sauce as it was ‘too dry’, when the dish that would go onto become Britain’s most popular dish was born.

 

Chances are you’ve already tried most of the above, but get out there and start exploring the country’s furthest corners and see if you can uncover more local culinary traditions or come up with your own!

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2009/jul/07/glaswegian-tikka-masala

https://munchies.vice.com/en_uk/article/nz9pdw/stargazy-pie-is-the-guiding-light-of-cornish-Christmas

 

My Random Musings

Let’s talk burgers. For me, a burger is all about the topping. I adore a stacked burger, dripping with sauce, smothered in melty cheese, maybe a slice or two of crispy bacon.

I also love a burger when it’s dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles…and perhaps a squirt of mayo, mustard or ketchup. Let’s face it, the regular toppings will never fail to be delicious, but occasionally I want a burger with more character.

The one rule about burger toppings is: there are no rules! Burger toppings just got a whole lot more exciting. So fire up the grill, seize your spatula and prepare to wow your loved ones with my eight tried-and-tested, outrageously tasty ideas that really work.

1. Crispy Hash Brown Burger

If you’re like me then burgers and chips make an indulgent dinner, and this recipe combines the best of both. All you need is a fried egg, a couple of pieces of bacon and some Cheddar cheese. Then on top of my burger patty, I’ll add some hash browns. You can either buy potatoes, shred and cook them or just buy some frozen ones and cook them to save time (I use hash browns by McCain, as they’re super tasty and low in fat and sugar). This delicious burger is all about providing a solid base for the day.

2. Cheddar and Broccoli

Normally served as a side dish to pork or perhaps used in a casserole, this burger topping isn’t usually found between two buns and piled on top of a beef patty. But, I say it’s cheese – so the rules must bend. Just use 700g broccoli florets and 150g grated Cheddar. Heat some oil in a frying pan, add the broccoli and simmer, stirring occasionally for two to three minutes (the broccoli should look bright green and deeply charred). Cover each burger patty equally with shredded cheese and the cooked broccoli.

3. Feta, Cucumber and Mayo

It doesn’t matter how you cook your burger, I think they’re best served with a dollop of feta which really amplifies the flavour. My loved ones always ask for this delicious topping – I normally serve it on chicken burgers, and sometimes add some olives to ramp up the flavour! For this topping, all you need is 50g finely chopped cucumber, eight tablespoons of mayo, and 100g crumbled feta. Simply mix the ingredients in a bowl and top over your burger. If you like, dress with lettuce and tomato.

4. Avocado and Black Bean Spread

Create black-bean spread by using a can of black beans, a touch of chilli powder, lime juice plus a splash of oil. Then blitz everything up in a food processor until smooth. The dip adds the wow factor to your burger, transforming it from a simple sandwich into a gourmet sensation, as well as adding some serious bulk if one patty just isn’t enough. On the bottom half of the bun, coat it with the black-bean spread, pop in your burger and top with avocado slices.

5. Blue Cheese Spread

While blue cheese might sound ridiculously indulgent, it really works – just a small smear on your burger makes it taste incredible. For even more flavour, crumble some blue cheese into a small bowl with some cream cheese and a spoonful or two of cream to make a heavenly spread. Use any leftovers as a dip for fries and veggies.

6. French Herbs

Why not whip up a French-style burger topping like the chefs do? Fancy French cooks often flavour food with what’s known as a compound butter – softened butter blended with herbs and seasonings. For some extra lusciousness, mix butter with chives, lemon zest, and green peppercorns; mint, basil, and lime zest; or tarragon, parsley and marjoram. Your taste buds will be in for some serious zing.

7. Sweet Peppers and Blue Cheese

Adding slow-roasted peppers not only brings colour to your burger, but also a smack of sweetness. Get a selection of coloured bell peppers, slice into strips, toss with olive oil, and roast them for an hour or so at around 150°C, until they’re melt-in-the-mouth soft. Throw in a couple of hot peppers for a bit of heat and personality and top with blue cheese. Adding a touch of garlic will give an extra layer of flavour.

8. Tzatziki

Although this Greek-style dip is classically mild in flavour, you can jazz it up by adding loads of grated garlic to make it sharp enough to pal up with your burger. I make my tzatziki dip with finely grated cucumber, well-drained, full-fat yoghurt, garlic, and dried or fresh mint, so the spread doesn’t slide off the bun. To make it more Mediterranean, I use fresh tomatoes and onions, not forgetting a dash of crumbled feta.

When you’re next in need of some comfort food, try some of these alternative burger toppings. They’re great for a weekend treat or midweek meal, or bring them along next time you or a loved one fire up the grill for burger night!

My Random Musings

When you have a family, it is important that you are spending as much time together as possible. There are many ways that you can bring your family together such as going on days out, playing games together or eating together. Family dinners have seemed to go out of fashion in recent years, but we think that they are very important. Here, we are going to give you some reasons why you should try out family dinners and bring them back. Keep reading to find out more.

Encourage Healthy Eating

The first reason that you should bring back family dinners is the fact that it can actually encourage healthy eating. If your teenagers are cooking their own meals, then it is unlikely that they will be making something healthy. On top of this, by cooking one meal that is shared amongst the family at the dinner table will encourage younger children to eat it. You might find that if you have separate meal times, your kids won’t be able to see the example that you are setting and might be unwilling to eat healthy meals. Make sure to cook a lot of fruit and vegetables and have a big jug of water on the table rather than bottles of fizzy juice. Improve your habits and your kids’ habits will soon follow.

Improve Relationships

Having a good relationship with your family members is very important and having regular family dinners can really encourage that. When you all sit down at the dinner table, you can talk about your day and your plans for the week. This is a great way of getting to know your kids more and ensuring that they are staying safe when out without you. Of course, not everyone has time to have regular family dinners due to differing schedules but if you can organise one or two per week then you will find that communication improves in your family.

Make Use Of Your Dining Room

Many people have a dining room in their house that they never get around to using. This is a good reason to bring back family dinners and have your family sit together in your nicely decorated room. If you are going to have regular family dinners, then you’ll need to have a good quality dining table that will fit everyone that needs to be there. Be sure to check out the following guide by Fishpools on how to choose the right dining room table: https://www.fishpools.co.uk/blog/2018/08/rectangular-round-dining-tables-decide/ –  this will help ensure that you are ready for bringing back those family dinners.

Save Money

Do you find that you are spending a lot of money on takeaways or on separate ingredients for the different meals that you are making? This is a good reason to start having family dinners where everyone eats the same thing, and nothing is wasted each week. You don’t need to get rid of takeaways entirely as these can still be eaten at the dinner table, but you should make sure to cut down on them if you want to save money. Plan your meals for the week and only buy the ingredients that you need for each meal. You will see how much money you can save in the long run if you avoid making a lot of meals and having a lot of wasted ingredients. Sit down with your family to eat a few times a week and you should be able to cut costs in the future.

Explore New Foods

The final reason that you should think about bringing back family dinners in your home is the fact that you can encourage your kids to explore new foods. If you are always cooking a separate meal for your kids, then you might find that you are sticking to the same recipes because you know they like them. When you eat as a family, you can cook meals that they might not have tried before that will suit you as well. When your kids see their siblings or parents trying new foods, they might be more willing to try them. This is a great way of getting your kids into new world foods and improving the flavours that they are trying.

Final Verdict

Many families rarely see each other because of after-school clubs, parents working long hours and many more reasons. If your family are struggling to communicate with each other then you might find that making them all sit down to a family meal a few times a week could really help. Try to make time for these meals and you should find that they can really improve relationships. On top of this, you’ll save money, so it will be worth making this change in the end.

 

 

 

5 Reasons To Bring Back Family Dinners

My Random Musings

div align=”center”>Musings Of A Tired Mummy