Friday, 21 November 2014

Lotus Vegetarian Revisited

I know I blogged back during Mofo about our first visit to Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen but now that we've been back twice more I can't resist sharing some more pictures and urging you to visit if you're anywhere near Manchester. The restaurant is in Withington which is a bus ride south of the city centre. It's a vegetarian Chinese restaurant where the majority of the dishes on offer are also vegan. Here's just a sample of some of the food we've tried.

Steamed veggie dumplings with dipping sauce.

Vietnamese spring rolls. Possibly the nicest spring rolls I've ever tasted. Not pictured but I can also recommend the taro rolls.

Not the most photogenic of dishes but this tofu and aubergine hotpot is a real star turn.

I've seen other people on Facebook rave about the chicken skewers in satay sauce and I have to agree that they are a must try dish. You can also try them as part of a sharing platter combo.

This final picture is of the stuffed three treasures which consisted of peppers, aubergine and stuffed tofu and was beautiful to look at and delicious tasting.

I've always loved Chinese food but in the 8 years I've been vegan have struggled to find any veggie dishes that taste as good as the meat ones I remember. Until now that is! I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Freedom Relaunch

Anyone who's vegan is likely to be aware of Freedom Mallows, the veggie friendly and affordable marshmallow company. I blogged about them last year when they'd just launched. At the time they were manufacturing just a vanilla flavour marshmallow but have since gone on to expand the range. The vanilla ones are now available in both white or yellow, there's a strawberry flavour and they've also launched mini marshmallows in both white and a mixed bag of pink and white.

The mini marshmallows are perfect for hot chocolate. I would love to see these being offered by cafes. The great thing about this brand is that as well as being veggie friendly they are also halal and kosher and approved by the Coeliac Society.

And remember, marshmallows are not just for munching on or for drinks. They make a fantastic baking ingredient. Rocky Road is really easy to make and is always a crowd pleaser, great for parties or pot lucks.

You may have noticed the change in packaging? They have recently relaunched changing their name to Freedom Confectionery and retiring the bunny characters and introducing new character Cedric the Sloth! The marshmallows are widely available in independent health food shops and also Holland and Barrett and are the perfect Autumn indulgence.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Getting the Vegan Offer Right - Catering With Pride and The Hydro

We've recently enjoyed two great value, tasty vegan meals at non-veggie establishments. It's fantastic to see more and more places like these starting to embrace vegan options as part of a mainstream menu. Interesting both companies are run as social enterprises. The King's Arms pub is in Salford, just on the edge of Manchester city centre. As well a pub it has a theatre/ music venue upstairs and is owned by Paul Heaton. Whilst I'd been there many times I'd never eaten there until recently when two Cake Liberation Front regulars told us about the great Sunday roasts.

There's various meat roast options and the veggie option is suitable for vegans. It's a sweet potato nut roast and is great value at £7.50 (£4.50 for children) as it also includes a pudding. The pudding in question on the day we visited was a very tasty fruit sponge with banana custard. The food is provided by a company called Catering With Pride. As you can see I was enjoying it so much I almost forgot to get a picture! They are part of Strong Roots, a community interest company and social enterprise where profits are reinvested back into the local community to support unemployed people furthest from the jobs market to learn new skills and gain confidence. The food was tasty and portions were plentiful. We'll definitely be back soon.

We've also recently visited The Hydro in Buxton for the first time. This cafe is a social enterprise run by a charity with profits going to help children and families in crisis both in the UK and Eastern Europe. The cafe also provides training and employment to young people. It's a relaxed environment with a 50's and 60's theme and the only place I've ever been offered a choice of sweetened or unsweetened soya for my latte.

The service was really friendly and efficient and top marks for the breakfast. I was especially impressed with the homemade sausages as I'm not the greatest fan of Linda McCartney ones so it was lovely to get something different for a change.

Both of these places offer great tasting, home cooked, good value vegan food and it's nice to know that your money is also helping fund work in local communities.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


I was recently contacted by a company called Plain Tasty to see if I'd like to try their new product - The Rysp. I was all too happy to especially as all their range is suitable for vegans and they are a local Manchester based company. 

Rysp either come as long crispbread or as small snack sized bites. Essentially it's a really thin crispbread which doesn't sound that exciting in itself but I must say the taste was a revelation! Creators Jonathan and Tom have looked to their Scandinavian roots using rye sourdough and carefully selected flavourings.

The long crispbreads have strong aniseed flavours from the caraway seeds and a hot kick from the black pepper and the slightly scooped shape was perfect for hummus. The bite sized Rysps come in two sizes of bag and in flavours of garlic + rosemary, caraway + black pepper and dulse seaweed + sesame. They are low in fat and calories and with only natural ingredients these make a fantastic alternative to crisps. As a new product they are adding suppliers all the time but are currently mainly stocked in the North of England although you can also find them at Vegan Tuck Box and at Infinity Foods in Brighton. You can also order them in boxes direct from the Rysp website. With new products like these and expanding crisp flavours like the Ten Acre range it's an exciting time for vegan snacking!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Scarthin Books

Scarthin books in the Derbyshire town of Cromford is one of my new favourite places. To start with it's one if those lovely old bookshops with mezzanine floors, lots of little rooms and a warren like feel to it. Books are a mixture of new and second hand and I could spend all day in there. To top all that they have a fabulous vegetarian cafe!

All of the menu items are vegetarian and on the day we were there all the savoury items could be veganised. For example our Homity pies could be made topped with dairy or non-dairy cheese. I'd never had Homity Pie before but it's gone on my list of comfort food to create at home this winter. I'll be trying out this recipe from Deerly Beloved Bakery.

There was a nice selection of beautifully displayed home made cakes with vegan and gluten free options. The picture shows just a few.

We went for chocolate cake and it was one of the best chocolate cakes I've had. It had a good crumb without being in the least dry. I find vegan cakes in caf├ęs can often veer between being dry and crumbly or too dense and oily but this was spot on. It was so good I really wanted to ask the staff what recipe they used but it was a super busy Sunday afternoon and I didn't want to mither them. I'm going to send them a link to this blog and hopefully they'll let me know!

Once we'd finished eating Matt went off to the music book room and I got happily lost in the vegan cookery section. I've never seen such a great vegan cookery section in a bookshop, it was such a lovely surprise.

I've only bought one cookery book this year so I treated myself to a copy of Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan. This looks like a very impressive book with tons of recipes including handmade chocolate and drinks as well as the expected cakes and desserts. Has anyone got this and what have you tried?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Autumn Comfort Cooking

I've just been writing a shopping list for this week's meals. There's gnocchi, lasagne, burger and chips on there. We're having pizza for tea tonight too. I crave comfort foods at this time of year. I'm trying to counter the carb overload by taking up a new exercise regime. I've recently dropped some hours at work and can't afford a gym membership so it exists of a stack of Davina McCall DVDs bought cheap off eBay and Amazon and two tins of baked beans for weights! Here's a little look at what I've been cooking recently.

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese was something I made on our recent holiday to Suffolk. I'll be blogging about the places we found to eat soon. It's this recipe from Oh She Glows pimped up with some cubed Vegandeli chorizo. I've been sampling some of the Vegandeli slicing sausage range for an upcoming Can I Eat It? review and this was a great way to use it.

I love a good roast dinner and we've been often enjoying them with the Artisan Nut Roasts recently. I decided it was time to try something different and remembered the fantastic Chickpea Cutlet recipe from Veganomicon. It was Matt's first time trying them and he was well impressed. I love how these make extra and freeze well. The picture was taken before I added my usual vat of gravy.

Here's another roast dinner. We've been really getting into roasting sprouts and cauliflower. They taste so good cooked this way. The centre piece of this dinner was Macsween Vegetarian Haggis. This wasn't just the standard haggis though (which I love). This was a limited edition new product - Moroccan Spiced Haggis. I tried this for another Can I Eat It? review and I must say that I was a bit dubious about whether this would work but I was really pleasantly surprised. It's spiced without being chilli spicy and has gorgeous flavours from the inclusion of apricots, prunes, ginger and lime. It's being launched this month in Selfridges but then will be more widely available. Definitely worth trying if you spot it anywhere.

And finally something simple and quick that really hits the comfort food spot. This was a 15 minute Saturday lunch. The French Onion soup is made from a thinly sliced onion, veg stock, a teaspoon of mixed herbs, a teaspoon of yeast extract and a splash of brandy. This costs pence to make but is so tasty and great for when you feel a cold coming on. Alongside it is cheese on toast made with Veganic Pizza Cheese liberally splashed with the Yorkshire delicacy that is Henderson's Relish

What's your ideal Autumn comfort food?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Vegan Life magazine - Issue 2

Did you manage to get hold of a copy of the first issue of new magazine Vegan Life? We were inspired by the article on a vegan wine and cheese evening and took advantage of an offer that Marks and Spencer's had on for 25% off 6 or more bottles of wine. It brought the price of this lot down to a fiver a bottle and we enjoyed trying them. My favourite was the third from the left, the PX. This was a crisp Chilean white. PX which is short for Pedro Ximenez is a grape usually associated with Spain and amazing sticky, sweet almost treacle toffee flavoured sherry. It was interesting to try it in a different style. M and S do a great job of labeling their wines as vegan and seeing as there is an M and S food at the end of our road we've been enjoying trying the range.

Issue 2 of Vegan Life is out now. You can see a preview of it here. I read my copy cover to cover yesterday evening. It took me over 3 hours, there's so much in it. There's a really great range of features and definitely something for everyone. I was really impressed with the variety. As one of the bloggers featured on their website I get a free digital subscription but I did also buy a copy of the first issue from WH Smiths. It's such a nicely printed magazine on quality paper that we're going to take out a subscription to get copies posted to us. It works out better value than buying individual copies and there's currently a subscription offer where the first 200 people get a free Organii shower gel and liquid soap worth over a tenner.

Very excitingly there is an article in this issue of the magazine on Cake Liberation Front. We're hoping it will inspire lots of people to hold their own CLF events. There's posters and graphics on the website that can be used for free to help with this. Don't forget that the t-shirts we did recently with Philosophy Football are still available. These would make great Christmas presents and are really high quality shirts.They can be found in the dissenters section of their website.

One of the parts of the magazine that I immediately turn to is the recipe section. There's plenty of variety ranging from ideas for Christmas cooking to raw food treats. There's also several features with recipes from selected cookery books which is a great way to get a flavour of a book before buying. I also enjoyed the feature on carob. Carob has had a bit of a bad rap over the years but the secret is to not compare it to chocolate. It used to marketed as a chocolate alternative and it simply isn't. It is great in it's own right though. I often use it in smoothies and I have been known to put carob chips in cookies when I've been able to find them. It's packed with vitamins and I was pleased to find a new way to feature it in my diet. Below is my version of a recipe from the magazine for a spicy warming drink. There's fresh ginger, maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamon, soya milk and boiling water in there. I slightly misread the recipe and had a much higher ratio of soya milk to hot water than it said but I don't think I'd change it as it really worked for me. This was such a lovely indulgent, spicy, treacle flavoured drink, just perfect for a winter's evening. Has anyone got any other uses for carob?