Friday, 28 November 2014

Holiday food - Week 2

We spent week two of our recent holiday in the seaside town of Aldeburgh. We were delighted to discover on the main street the little gem that is Delphines Diner. Small but perfectly formed would be the phrase to describe this place. It also has no web presence so it's a bit of a well kept secret!

There wasn't a lot for vegans on the menu BUT they did offer a vegan hotdog. This was our last lunch of the holiday and we really enjoyed it.

I'd been to VegFest just before the holiday and attended Jojo's talk on vegan travelling. I'd taken Jojo's advice to ask for recommendations on Twitter and was so glad I did when I got a tweet mention the Dolphin Inn at neighbouring Thorpeness.

The Dolphin Inn is a gastro pub that offers a vegan option for each course on their regularly changing menu. We had a shared starter of grilled vegetables and olives and a main of risotto. Risotto is a staple veggie option when eating out and sometimes I find it a bit bland as if leaving out the cheese leaves out all the flavour. However, this was a great risotto, creamy but packed with flavour from butternut squash and leeks.

I think the dessert may have been my favourite part of the meal though. This was a delicious tea poached pear with a homemade ginger biscuit. The Dolphin also offer gluten free options and it was great to see somewhere making efforts to cater to a variety of diets. We were sat next to a large group of women and one of them ordered a veggie dish. Her friend said 'Oh, I didn't know you were a vegetarian?' to which she replied 'I'm not, it just sounds really nice'. Yep, good food is good food and the staff at the Dolphin understand. Definitely one to visit if you're ever in the area.

I mentioned in my last blog post how great the weather was for October.

We enjoyed a day out to Southwold which has the poshest pier I've ever been on! The cafe even did a nice soya latte, great tea and my favourite vegan friendly Corkers crisps.

Instead of the usual amusement arcade the pier has the Under The Pier Show which is a roomful of interactive entertainment made by artist Tim Hunkin. It was brilliant fun.

I don't know what The Booth of Truth told Matt but he came out smiling!

We wondered if the designer was a veggie when we saw the Pet or Meat machine that decides the lambs fate!

There was a deli in the town where we picked up some bits and bobs for tea but we fancied a sit down lunch. We were pleased to discover Enzo's Pizzeria offered a cheese free pizza. It was simple Italian pizza at it's best. A thin crispy base, topped with homemade sauce, mushroooms, fresh basil and black pepper.

Finally here's a few vegan products we found in the shops in Suffolk that were new to us. The East of England Co-Op's carry this range of vegan friendly cakes from Norfolk based Riverbank Bakery. This cherry and almond cake was lovely and good value at around £2.50. We were pleased to discover when we got home that we can also get this range from the food hall in our market in Glossop.

Woodbridge has a great independent wine shop in Woodbridge Wines and we were also impressed by this range of local, handmade chocolate from Deep Mills Chocolate that they carry. The Dutch Salted Liquorice flavour is an inspired idea! The chocolate is really well priced and you can order it online.

The shop also had these amazing crisps made from pasta called Pastinos! These were so good and incredibly moreish. We're down to our last bag so I'm hoping to find a Northern stockist soon!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Holiday Food - Week 1

Back in October we had two weeks holiday in Suffolk. We thought that the weather might be pretty grim but as it happened other than a couple of days, we had two weeks of glorious sunshine and lots of lovely beach walks as well as days out. We spent the first week in a converted boathouse next to a Martello tower just by the beach at Shingle Street. Here's the view from our front door!

Apart from a few fishermen we had the beach to ourselves.

Other great places for walking in the area are Rendlesham Forest the home of famous UFO sightings and the extremely atmospheric Orford Ness an ex-military testing site. It's on a shingle spit that you have to take a boat to reach. You're allowed to walk round but have to stick to designated paths as there is environmentally rare vegetation and also the possibility of unexploded things!

There were no shops or pubs where we were staying so we did a lot of self catering. We even took the Vitamix and pizza stone with us. The nearest town was Woodbridge and we managed to get everything we needed from the Budgens there and the fantastic Poppy's Pantry wholefoods store on a little industrial estate just outside of Woodbridge. Seriously, this place had everything a vegan could need with lots of staples and no shortage of treats. We had a day out in Colchester where Matt lived for a few years.

Whilst in Colchester we visited Firstsite Gallery and also The Minories gallery which is next door. Thanks to the Vegan Colchester blog we found out that the Minories has a fantastic garden cafe that caters well for vegans. We shared this platter of dips and veggies and a bowl of sweet potato wedges.

The cafe has a changing selection of vegan cakes and the day we were there we managed to snag these delicious cupcakes made by local company PS It's Vegan.

We had another day out in Ipswich. We ate lunch at veggie establishment The Museum Street Cafe. They had a good selection of vegan options with an old school wholefoods style offer. This veggie bake was really delicious and hit the spot on one of the cooler days of the holiday.

Dessert was a simple yet tasty ooey, gooey ginger sponge cake. Sometimes simple is best!

Everywhere we went in the area we saw bread from Pump Street Bakery in Orford. They specialise in delicious sourdough breads and even make their own sourdough dark chocolate. When we heard there was a little cafe attached we popped down to check it out as well as to pick up some bread. They serve Monmouth coffee and offer soya milk so it was a latte for me whilst Matt went for fresh mint tea. The staff were really friendly and talked us through the bread range. I've never explored the world of baking bread but this holiday definitely made me more interested. Maybe it will be a New Year's resolution!

We headed for Snape Maltings one Sunday when we saw there was a vintage homewares fair. It was a really good fair and we managed to limit our purchases to a groovy 70's set of kitchen hooks which match our cookery book stand though we could have come away with much more!

There's lots of artisan shops and galleries as well as a concert hall at Snape Maltings. Suffolk is a seriously foodie place and it was good to see that there was usually something vegan on menus.

We spent the second week in Aldeburgh in a beautiful apartment in the top of a Victorian house. I'll leave you with a picture of the kitchen chandelier which I loved. I wouldn't fancy cleaning it though!

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?