Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Glastonbury Revisited

Two weekends ago we were back down South again as Matt was playing at another festival. This time it was the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and Rally. It's an annual event held in the fields next to the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum. As well as lots of stalls run by the unions and other groups of activists there is a programme of live music throughout the weekend. There was even an animal rights presence with the local chapter of Animal Aid running a stall. Here's me next to a banner from my old union from my teaching days. 

The festival finished with Billy Bragg on the Sunday teatime and we left the campsite and headed off to Glastonbury for a night in the Travelodge. We were really pleased to discover when we got there that Cafe Galatea served a Sunday roast. Unfortunately they told us that they couldn't find the recipe for the vegan version of the nut roast which made me wonder why have a vegetarian and a vegan version? Why not just do a good vegan version that everyone can eat? Anyway, the substitute was falafel which despite my doubts about it as part of a Sunday roast was actually very tasty. The selection of veg was excellent and Matt even walked it off by climbing up Glastonbury Tor afterwards. Me, I had to have a lie down!

We were able to spend the next morning looking around the town checking out the charity shops and bookshops. I even saw a man who looked just like Father Christmas at a bus stop. Whilst we were mooching around we were keeping an eye out for somewhere to go for lunch. Although there were lots of places where we could get something vegan to eat I was starting to get a little disappointed as it seemed that the vegan option everywhere was humus and falafel. Much as I like those things it's nice when you eat out to have something a little more imaginative. Then we spotted Hundred Monkeys Cafe. As a lover of monkeys the name alone got me interested but when we looked at the menu in the window the deal was sealed. Whilst not a vegetarian business they had the best choice of veggie food that we spotted that morning and things were cleared labelled as vegan.

Matt went for the anti-pasti plate above. It was all vegan bar the pesto which he was able to sub for a homemade vegan coleslaw. My choice was a four grain salad with wild red and black rice, quinoa and pearl barley dressed with lemon and fresh herbs. It was a boiling hot day and this was exactly the kind of food I wanted to eat. I was absolutely lovely but I couldn't finish it.

The portion was certainly generous and I also wanted to sample the dessert I'd spotted on the way in. This was a nice substantial chocolate cake studded with chocolate chips and finished with vanilla frosting. I washed it down with a refreshing cup of their herbal tea blend of the month.

As well as the hearty portions and quality of the food the other thing that stood out at Hundred Monkeys was the service which was really excellent. It was a busy lunchtime but the staff were attentive and polite and went out of their way to find me a container so that I could take the rest of my salad home as it was too nice to leave! If you're in the Glastonbury area I would definitely recommend a visit.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Vegan Organic Network

Do you know about the Vegan Organic Network? The group are based in Manchester but are a well established national group who have a presence at vegan events and fairs all round the country. They aim to promote a system of cultivation that avoids artificial chemicals and sprays, livestock manures and animal remains from slaughter houses. Instead they advocate maintaining fertility by vegetable compost, green manures, crop rotation, mulches and any other method that is sustainable, ecologically viable and not dependent on animal exploitation. It's really interesting stuff. I've never lived anywhere where I've had garden space to grow food but I'm hoping that will change when I move and VON will be a great resource to learn how to do this in a vegan friendly way. I was really pleased when the group approached Cake Liberation Front about doing something for their annual fundraising garden party.

It was a fun, sunny afternoon with stalls, entertainment, crafts and of course lots of delicious vegan food. I went home with bags of yellow cherry tomatoes from a vegan organic farm as well as big bunches of fresh spinach and kale which kept me in delicious green smoothies for the following week. Our little stall raised a respectable £85 adding to the grand total which came in at over £1,000. Matt also won a great sea Shepherd tshirt in the raffle. Look out for VON appearing at an event near you and check out their website.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Competition Time - Win Freedom Mallows

I was reading the other day how crazily flavoured gourmet marshmallows are the new cupcake or perhaps that should be macaroon? It's funny but marshmallows were never something that I was that bothered about in my pre-vegan days but I'm sure that lots of you will empathise with the fact that they suddenly became something I desired once I couldn't have them! Over the last few years I've tried several brands with my favourites being Daisy's Marshmallows which are sold via Ebay to raise money for rescue dogs and the wonderful Sweet Vegan range. I was delighted therefore when I was contacted last week by Freedom Mallows to see if I'd like to try some samples of their new product.

Freedom Mallows are even made locally to me in Manchester. Like other vegan marshmallows they are gelatine free, contain all natural colours and flavours and there is no high fructose corn syrup. At the moment there is just the one flavour - vanilla. The flavour and texture were great and they are a welcome addition to the UK vegan marshmallow market coming in at a lower price point than any I've seen before. The website lists stockists and there's the usual online vegan stockists as well as some health food stores and places like Ms Cupcake and VX. I was pleased to see that they are also carried by Slattery's who are a well known North Manchester baker and chocolatier probably most famous for making Wayne and Colleen Rooney's massive wedding cake!

Even though the temperature outside is still boiling hot I did the hot chocolate test and I can report back that these worked a treat and melted well. If I can stop myself from eating the rest of the bag I'll give them a try in some baking too. The company were kind enough to send me two bags so that means a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning please leave a comment below telling me what your dream gourmet marshmallow flavour would be. The winner will be chosen at random on 31 July. UK entrants only. Good luck!

Winner - and the winner is commenter number 6 - Helen - congratulations!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


So, I survived my first music festival, camping experience! To be honest I felt like a bit of a cheat. We got to Glastonbury on the Friday and it was dry and sunny from there on in. We got to camp in the crew and artists enclosure behind the Leftfield where there were showers, real toilets and even a greenroom. It was fab and Matt's slot went really well. He was part of the Radical Roundup on the Saturday afternoon where 4 singer songwriters got to take it turns to do a song each. The Saturday round up featured Billy Bragg, Sean McGowan and Amanda Palmer alongside Quiet Loner himself! There's some footage here and here.

We also got to hang out with ONSIND who were part of the Radical Roundup on the Friday and who are fellow vegans. Nathan even has an I Love Vegan Junk Food sticker on his guitar. They are lovely guys and their music is great. I've just ordered their new CD. I urge you to check them out if you don't already know them. By bizzare coincidence we realised we'd actually met the year before in the health food shop in Glossop. They were on their way to play at Strummercamp and had stopped in the town to check out The Globe which is Glossop's vegan pub. As it doesn't do food on Saturday lunchtimes they'd stopped off at the shop looking for some lunch and we'd recommended they also pop over to the monthly food market for vegan scones.

So what was the food like? Well, it was certainly easy for vegans. We consumed burgers, falafels and salads. My standout though which I had twice was the massaman curry budha bowls from Wholefood Heaven which were absolutely gorgeous. Something else that I had twice was a chocolate, hazelnut cake from Queen Delilah over in the Greenfields. These guys were actually operating an on-site bakery. The cake was rich and dense and I was suprised to find it was gluten free with the flour being ground hazelnuts. My other standout of the weekend was some vegan chai on the Sunday morning purchased from the 50p tea tent. As it was fancier than the standard tea it was actually £1.50 but was worth every penny as it's the nicest chai I've yet to taste.

This weekend we're off to another festival. This time it's in Dorset and it's the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and Rally. Billy Bragg will be there and I'm planning to bake him a vegan cake as a thank you for inviting us to Glastonbury.