Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Birthday Treats

I had a birthday last week. Matt made me the lovely tea pictured below. Whenever we have a hire car we always try to make a trip to the massive B and M Bargains in Gorton. Last time we went one of the vegan treats we found was a vegan friendly pesto. Said pesto inspired the tea which was a puff pasty roast vegetable and olive tart with pesto roasted potatoes. I've never thought to do potatoes like this but we'll definitely be having them again. They were new potatoes that were boiled then tossed in pesto and then roasted in the oven. Mmm, really good.

In amongst my lovely birthday presents from family and friends were a couple of specifically vegan things I've been wanting for a while. I got my first pair of vegan docs.

And, the new cookery book by my cookery hero. I can't decide where to start with making stuff from it. Has anyone else made anything yet? As usual with Isa it all looks amazing!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Manchester Vegan Potluck

Manchester Vegan Potluck has been running for a year. Until now I've been drooling over the photos on Facebook but always been double booked. Happily tonight I finally made it to one. The theme was Autumn and there was a great array of both sweet and savoury goodies. 

I was too busy tucking in to note down the names of all the dishes but off the top of my head there was a sausage and apple casserole, toad in the hole, Lancashire Black Peas, cherry beer chicken, mini steak pies and cheese pies, seitan roast stuffed with maple root veggies and an array of sweet pies, Eve's pudding and pumpkin choc chip muffins. My contribution was walnut and orange humus and chocolate chai cookies. There'll be one more this year in December. I'm hoping I can make it. It's such a great idea and you get to try some really creative vegan food. Jenny (of the blog Spice Box Of Earth)who organises it told me that someone bought Christmas sushi to the December one last year!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Tibits Cookbook

I have to admit I've never been to Tibits. If you're not aware of it, it's a buffet style veggie restaurant in London. I've always been impressed by what I've seen of it on other blogs and I was gutted when they recently invited me to some vegan tasting days and I wasn't able to make it to any of them. However, they also sent me a copy of their cookbook, Tibits At Home. I've tried out a few of the recipes and I've been very impressed so far. The book is vegetarian though I'd say about 50% of the recipes are vegan with more being easy to sub ingredients and make vegan. First of it is a beautiful book to look at, a real coffee table stunner, packed with lots of great colour photos and food styling that puts my efforts to shame!

The first couple of dishes that I tackled were soups. Above is Tomato Soup with Lemongrass and Coconut Milk and below is Parsnip Soup which also contained potatoes and was delicately flavoured with lemon. Both soups were a winner, were very easy to make and I would definitely make again.

This last dish I've already made twice including for a dinner party. It's called Warm Dahl with Spinach and is at the back of the plate. It's a wonderfully creamy twist on a classic dahl with the inclusion of a tin of coconut milk. Again it was easy and quick to make. The book is also good on salads and simple veggie dishes. There's no fake meats or cheeses or even much in the way of soy products. The emphasis is on vegetables and light, clean dishes that aren't overcomplicated.

To check out some more dishes from the book pop over to Emma's blog at Coconut and Berries. If you've not looked at Coconut and Berries before you must check it out. It's a lovely blog that I only became aware of during this years Mofo. I love Mofo for new discoveries, especially finding other UK vegan food blogs.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Tropic Skincare

I've only ever watched one series of The Apprentice but it happened to be the one a couple of years ago where Susan Ma reached the final. She was my favourite out of the Apprentices that year and her idea was to develop her existing skincare range. Fast forward a couple of years and although she didn't win the series Lord Sugar chose to invest and the full range of skincare products and make up was launched earlier this year and has already won several awards. It's sold in the same way as Neal's Yard and Body Shop sell their stuff in that you book an 'ambassador' to come to your house to do demos for you and your friends and you can then order any products through them. As the host you get 15% of any sales to use against products for yourself. I booked a party as one of my friends had started selling it and the range is completely vegan. I must say I was really impressed with the quality of the products which smell amazing. I've got a bit lazy about looking after my skin and as I'm about to have a birthday and will be ticking the next age bracket on forms I treated myself and bought the box set of the full facial skincare range.

Of course I couldn't have people round without doing some baking. I made a coffee and walnut cake with speculoos frosting, a chocolate chai cake with coconut and cardomon frosting, lavender shortbread and chocolate chip and rosemary cookies. I also splashed out on some of the new Pukka Teas and can report that the Peppermint and Liquorice and the Earl Gray with Lavender are both excellent.

Going back to the spread the chocolate chip rosemary cookies are a new Isa recipe. They are part of the new video range that she's just brought out and are predictably excellent. I'm getting Isa Does It for my birthday and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Has anybody tried anything from it yet?

Edit - My skin has responded really well to the products, I'm really enjoying using them.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Oak Street Cafe

I've just spent a lovely afternoon tasting great food and wine in the company of Polly from Creative Tourist, Matt from Northern Quarter Manchester (both great sites to check out whether you're a local or visitor to the city) and fellow vegans Andrea of Chocolate and Beyond, Sophie of Hasta La Vegan and Sophia who organises the fabulous vegan Tuesdays at the Salford Arms. The venue was Oak Street Cafe in Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Owner Karen explained to us how with the exception of one or two dishes the food they serve is vegetarian with lots of it being suitable for vegan or gluten free diners. Chef Liz has been known to whip up dishes at short notice for visitors with multiple food allergies and they pride themselves on having something for everyone. The emphasis is on local, fresh and ethical fayre using suppliers such as Unicorn, Barbakan and Marble Beers.

We started off with this flavourful tasting plate. The thai tomato soup tasted like the best kind of homemade tomato soup, delightfully fresh with a nice surprise of toasted peanuts in the bottom. Next to this is a cup of Yam curry which was probably the stand out dish of the afternoon, everyone around the table absolutely loved it. It was a really creamy coconut curry with big chunks of yam and just the right balance of heat from the chilli. Next to that was a flatbread topped with homemade falafel and leek tart with a flaky pasty base. The flat breads are part of the standard cafe menu and the other dishes are great examples of the changing daily specials that they serve.

The cafe always has tasty salads and the examples today were no exception. On the left in the photo is an unusual mix of rainbow beetroot and cho cho which is a type of Mexican pumpkin! It was beautifully flavoured with lemon zest and fennel giving it a sweet tang that I thought was inspired. On the right is Bombay potato. This was no ordinary Bombay potato though as this appeared to consist of chunks of baked rather than boiled potato which took it to another level.

This plate was beautiful to look at as well as taste and is filled with baked baby aubergine drizzled with tahini dressing and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. The cafe has recently got a license so alongside the food we also got to try the wine range. They do a white, rose and red which are made by a small family run co-operative in La Mancha, Spain which are all vegan and which were great matches for the type of fresh, fusion food that the cafe serves.

The afternoon was finished off by trying samples of the cake they had in the cafe that day, two of which were vegan. The banana, date and walnut tea loaf was made with spelt flour and the sticky toffee date flavours would go really well with coffee. The cafe serves both caff and decaff and also a nice range of loose leaf tea blends.

I really, really enjoyed the Chocolate, Amaretto cake. Liz told us one of her tips for vegan cakes was to use Oatly instead of soya cream. The ganache topping on this cake was perfect so that's a tip I'll definitely be remembering. Liz will also take orders for vegan Christmas cakes and offers non fruit but still seasonal varieties too. I only started going to this cafe a few months ago but it's become one of my favourite places in the city centre. It feels like a calm little oasis, has free wifi and of course there's all the wonderful artist studios to have a look round too. I'll leave you with this little film they made last Christmas that gives you a bit more of a look at the place.

Craft Centre Christmas from Manchester Craft on Vimeo.

Monday, 11 November 2013


I've been trying to sell my flat for the last six months but sadly have not been having much luck. Probably the fact that there's been a question hanging over things about whether the building was getting a new roof hasn't helped. The roof work is now definitely going ahead which is great news and I reckon the viewings will pick up once it's finished. In the meantime however another positive thing that happened is that an Indian Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant has opened just 15 minutes walk away. Yep, it's all veggie!!! 

It's called Sanskruti and is in the Ladybarn area of South Manchester. It's a family run business with extensive vegan choices. The menu is divided into Chats/Starters, Punjabi dishes, Gujarati dishes, Dahl/ Kadhi and then all the accompaniments of rice and breads. We tried a takeaway a few weeks ago. The round things at the front of the plate are Sev Puri which I loved and will definitely get again. Over to the left is Ringnan no Oro (a Gujarati aubergine dish), tarka dhal and half of a masala dosa. The takeaway menu didn't have a chilli rating but you can specify for most things to be made hot, medium or mild and without onion or garlic on request. I have an allergy to some chilli but I could eat everything here, hooray! I'm looking forward to working my way through the rest of the menu whilst waiting for the flat to sell.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Manchester Vegan Fair

This weekend I ran a stall at the Manchester Vegan Fair. The stall was for Cake Liberation Front, a social group that I set up with some friends.

The aim of Cake Liberation Front is to promote vegan baking and smash the stereotypes of dry fruit cake or soggy banana bread. We meet up every few months in Manchester and people bring some amazing cakes and baked goods, such as these peanut butter and bacon cupcakes made by Sophie who writes the Hasta La Vegan blog. I've had a coconut bacon recipe bookmarked for a while now and after trying these I will definitely be making it!

The stall was really just to let people know about CLF and maybe encourage people from outside Manchester to set up their own group. There's graphics and posters that are downloadable from the website that people are welcome to use. We gave away free samples of a vegan Chocolate stout and Cranberry Tea Bread, my own recipe from the cake liberation front recipe blog. I'm pleased to say that loads of people came to talk to us, try some samples and sign the mailing list. 

The vegan fair was great. There were animal charities, book stalls, activists, and a lot of food stalls.

V Revolution were doing pulled pork n coleslaw and mac n cheese along with some of their delicious sandwiches including a smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill that was really good. Matt tried a burger from Teatime Collective which he raved about. We also tried chocolate doughnuts and giant custard cremes from My Cupcakes, a Nottingham bakery which makes beautiful cakes - all vegan and gluten free.

It was a great day, and vegan fairs are always a fun way to meet people and try new food.