Thursday, 27 August 2015

Our Week in London

We've just had a little visit to London and were lucky enough to be able to house sit for some friends whilst they were off to a wedding in Vegas. We were based in Hackney and had the fab co-operatively run Black Cat Cafe within walking distance. Seeing as we arrived on a Thursday evening and Thursday is pizza night at Black Cat it would have been wrong not to sample some. Pizza is available by the slice or as in my case you can order a whole one to yourself. It was fantastic vegan pizza with chargrilled veg, pesto, tomato sauce and a generous amount of cheese.

Matt went for the lasagna and declared it the best lasagna he'd ever eaten outside of his own home. I tried some and can concur, it was wonderful. In total our meal came to £21. Not pictured are two Whole Earth Colas and a big chunk of Rocky Road we took home to share. For home cooked organic food I thought that this was fantastic value, particularly for London.

The following morning we headed to Borough Market which is where Matt used to live. He popped off for an hour to meet a friend whilst I had a read of the paper in the Le Pan Quotidien tucked away just behind the market. I'd not been in a branch of Le Pan since a holiday in Brussels in 2001 but I wish we had one in Manchester. I was impressed with how many vegan options they have and how clearly labelled they are. My Matcha latte made with almond milk was huge and delicious.

I'd noted our lunch destination on one of my favourite blogs - Flicking The V's. Situated just by the Shard, The Moveable Feast is a 6 month pop up vegetarian and vegan lunch destination. Joey had posted about some amazing looking homemade pasta and tiramisu from Pomodoro E Basilico and we were fortunate enough to catch them on their last day as part of this venture. Instead of pasta their dish of the day was smokey seitan burgers with peach salsa and home made mayonaise served with a side of sweet potato fries. Oh my word this was good.

You need a close up of the burger. Even the bun was home made. We had a little chat with Sara the owner and chef and she very kindly gave us a complimentary piece of the pizza that she'd made for the Moveable Feast staff. London people, if you've not tried Pomodoro E Basilico food before get yourself down to Camden Market where they have a stall, you will not be disappointed.

On Saturday evening we headed to North London for our friend Susie's 'Do Ya Think I'm Forty' party. Yep, that's right a Rod Stewart themed 40th bash complete with fancy dress and a Rod impersonator. To fortify ourselves for the event we popped back to Black Cat for a big breakfast. This was tasty with fried potatoes, mushrooms, home made baked beans, scrambled tofu, maple bacon and a pancake. We also paid a bit extra for a Vegusto sausage.

Here we are, suitably 'Rodded'. Blimey it was hot in those wigs!

After the excesses of the weekend partying we went for some lighter foods for our last few meals. This meant heading to Inspiral in Camden for a lemon dressed asparagus green salad.

Matt's choice was a hemp tartlet which was filled with a mix made from sun dried tomatoes, pesto and capers. He was surprised at how filling this was.

My favourite bit of our meal there was my Banana Blast smoothie and this raw sushi that we got to share.

Not pictured but somewhere that we got both take away salad boxes from and also where we had a meal with friends is Tas. This London chain serving Anatolian Turkish food had tons of tasty veggie options. I had so many places I wanted to try in London and we only managed to get to a fraction of them we must get another trip planned soon!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Raspberry Biscuits Revamped

A few weeks ago I was looking in a kitchen cupboard at my mum's house and to my surprise I found this! It's my notebook from after school cookery club at Primary school. There was also two other of my childhood books - a sweet making book and one with nursery rhymes and recipes that go with them by the Milk Marketing Board! Flicking through this little orange notebook I can remember the excitement of making the recipes they contained. It also made me laugh how many of the recipes contained lard! This was the 1970's remember.

I've decided to have a go at veganising and de-larding some of the recipes and I thought I'd start with Raspberry Buns. My new version with the altered ingredients gives more of a biscuit than a bun and also more of a pronounced coconut flavour but these were oh so good and the revamped recipe is definitely a keeper. It's also like the original a nice easy one for kids to make and would be equally at home as part of an afternoon tea.

Raspberry Biscuits

Makes 10


100g of self raising flour
Pinch of salt
50g of coconut oil (melted in a pan)
50g of caster sugar
2 tablespoons of soya milk
Raspberry jam

Heat the oven to gas mark 5/ 375F/ 190C.

Grease a baking tray or line with a silcone mat.

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and stir together. Add the melted coconut oil and soya milk and stir together to make a stiff dough.

Divide into 10 balls and place on a baking tray. Flatten with you hand and then press your thumb into the centre of each biscuit. Place a little raspberry jam in the dent.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Tea Tasting with Teavivre

A while ago I got an email from a company in China called Teavivre asking if I would like to try some samples of their teas. Teavivre is run by a group of tea lovers from China, Canada and France and they will ship Chinese teas worldwide. They also offer free samples with each order. Lots of their teas are organic and their website is packed with information on all things tea related. My samples arrived and one rainy Sunday afternoon I assembled a team of tea tasters comprising of Matt, Ann and Rae.

Although tea is in my blog title I must confess that I am no expert and apart from Lapsang Souchong I don't drink any Chinese tea at home. Luckily Rae does and brought along all the correct brewing gear as well as his tea knowledge. We got to learn all about washing leaves, optimum water temperature, brewing times etc.

This special teapot has a section in the middle for the leaves which you fill with water and then when the brewing time is up you press a button to release the tea into the bottom part. You repeat this several times. The leaves are kept separate in the upper chamber so the tea doesn't stew and the candle in the base keeps the brew warm for ages. I definitely want to get one of these!

These are the teas that we tried. We ordered them in order of strength trying the lighter, more delicate ones first - White Peony, Peach Jasmine Dragon Pearl, Guang Don Phoenix Oolong, Keemun Black Tea Grade 1 and Raw Pu-Erh mini Tuncha. This photo is of the Peach Jasmine Dragon pearl which start off as tightly rolled balls and open out when water is added.

The Raw Pu-erh comes in little hard cakes of tea.

Here's the Pu-erh after it was prepared for brewing.

The colours of the teas varied greatly from pale apricot to golden ambers with the stronger teas.

I really enjoyed tasting all the teas. I loved the spinach and nettle aromas from the White Peony and it's refreshing, grassy flavours. I've had Dragon Pearl many times and always enjoyed it but the addition of natural peach flavour took this to another level. The Oolong had hemp aromas and pleasant fruity flavours. I think these three were my favourites. I found the Pu-erh quite strong and astringent but I'm sure this is down to my underdeveloped palate. The afternoon has definitely inspired me to drink more teas, in particular Chinese tea. Did you know that it has around a tenth the caffiene of a cup of coffee? There's also plenty of health benefits. Have you got any favourites?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A Vegan Food Camping Diary

A couple of weekend's ago we headed down to Dorset for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. It's the third year we've been and we knew that there wouldn't be too much vegan food so we filled the cool bag before we set off. I thought I'd do a little food diary of what we enjoyed over the weekend. Not pictured are several Marks and Spencers salads from the 2 for £3 range and also packets of Jamie Oliver ready cooked grain mixes. The Moroccan Apricot and Chickpea one is my favourite and makes a great picnic tea with some chopped avocado. We also had TLT bagels (BBQ tempeh, rocket and tomato) which somehow we forgot to photograph. We stopped for a service station pitstop on the way there as it's such a long drive, around 7 hours! This involved Costa Soya Lattes and a shared wholemeal pasty.

We kept breakfasts simply with a home made luxury museli mix. We bought a base mix from Unicorn Grocery and added loads of nuts and dried fruits. This was topped with peaches and pears and coconut milk.

A mid afternoon snack of delicious home made malty bread with avocados and some O Loves that I picked up for pennies in Home Bargains.

There were a couple of stalls selling things like chips, baked potatoes and beans and one that did a hummous platter which seem to be there every year. Although these things are suitable for vegans they're not the most exciting of meals so we were really pleased to see a new stall this year called the Veggie Patch. Pictured here are three different flavour falafels with home made hummous and beetroot relish as well as a tasty coleslaw served with pitta and flatbread. The food was fresh and flavourful and the stall was beautifully presented with the relishes and toppings being served from little watering cans!

A staple for me at festivals is chai tea. I was pleased to find the onsite cafe serving it and indulged in many cups over the weekend. Alongside this is a chocolate and courgette muffin that I posted the recipe for recently.

And finally the tasty home made bread in the picture above came from a mobile shop. It tours around the local villages and it was the first time that it had been at the festival but it was a brilliant addition. They specialise in selling locally grown and made products. I picked up some tea made from locally grown herbs and also this amazing artisan mint chocolate. This was a great find as the box contained two bars and gave us a nice little boost of energy at times over the weekend when we were flagging a bit.

I'm always up for suggestions for camping food so would love to hear them if you have any, particularly for things that don't need cooking!