In October I turned the big 30, and I’ve been waiting on the present from the hub for a while – a trip to Venice. I knew it would be amazing, but I had it in the same category as Paris – some beautiful sights, but ultimately, a normal city like any other. This wasn’t the case. It took a few hours to shake the feeling that we were in a film set, or a themed area of Disneyland. It was too beautiful to be real.
Although Stockport is minutes away from Manchester, I’m not very good at breaking the routine and going somewhere new. Last time I head that way was the Robinson’s brewery tour (well worth it) a few years ago. This time it was The Allotment that brought me back, teased by the the chef, Matthew Nutter’s, bold claim that “I can make aubergine taste better than steak“. I’m not particularly looking for something that tastes like steak but I love the cheek of that statement. Continue reading “Dinner at the Allotment vegan restaurant in Stockport”
On the first real sunny weekend of the year we escaped to the Lakes. The sunshine was a happy coincidence rather than specifically running away to the sun, and it turned out to be the perfect weekend, with great vegan food, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous quiet little b&b to make our base. I’d never been to Ambleside before, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Continue reading “A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside”
Las Vegas is a city of steak – and as a tourist it can be overwhelming trying to find vegan food to suit what you’re in the mood for, whether it’s something quick, cheap and on the go, or somewhere special to sit down and enjoy.
I recently spent a week in Vegas with my family, including a day at the World Pole Expo (<3). It took us a few days to find the best places, but here’s a run down:
Vegan Food in Las Vegas
First thing to note – Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn and the Encore is vegan. I found it a little odd that a vegan would serve foie gras in his own establishment, but there you go. Anyway, it means that supposedly every food outlet in the Wynn provides at least one vegan option, so at least Steve doesn’t go hungry. We sampled chocolate chip muffins at “The Cafe” (divine) as well as a vegan pizza and a fake chicken thing with noodles at the Allegro, which is classed as casual dining but is pretty fancy for a cheeky dinner. In the US their version of Quorn appears to be Gardein Chick’n – which is much less dry and tough and overall better. The Wynn isn’t a cheap dinner, but it was delicious.
Chipotle is a Mexican fast food outlet that’s all over the US, kind of like a Subway but for burritos. I guess the UK is getting more and more Barburrito now – it’s similar. We visited a few times while we were there as it was a quick lunch for on the go and there was one over the road from the Mirage where we were staying. Turns out I only have a photo of the burrito bowl – this was great for a bit of fresh salad after a few too many cocktails the night before! You can also get Sofritas in your burrito, which is shredded, spiced tofu – so good.
Hussong’s Cantina (Mandalay Bay)
Hussong’s was our last night in Vegas, and we were absolutely gutted not to have found it sooner. Seriously, we were only there a week but I’d have been happy to eat there 2 or even 3 nights. I LOVE Mexican food, and the comprehensive vegan menu included sour cream and Daiya cheese (which NEEDS to launch in the UK – best vegan cheese I’ve ever had). You can choose from Gardein Chick’n or Beefless Tips, of just plain fried veggies. As there were four vegans at our table we pretty much sampled every option between us, and it was all amazing. Casual, fun experience and even a mariachi band.
Slice of Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
This one is a kind of cheat to include, and a bit bittersweet. We arrived at Hussong’s early for our reservation, so popped next door for a beer while we waited, which is where we found Slice of Vegas, a kind of casual sports bar. This is where we discovered a whole vegan pizza menu, but we had no more nights left to spend here. So here’s the menu, it looked great, but I can’t vouch for it. Let me know if you’ve been! (or don’t, it might upset me…)
More eating vegan in Vegas
Aside from the above, you’ve also got Denny’s, which offers a vegan burger. You can find one on Freemont Street if you’re down for the light show. Walgreen’s are ok for an overpriced banana and some hummus if you find yourself in a bind. Brits know where they stand with Subway (veggie delite, obviously). And many of Auntie Anne‘s pretzels are vegan, as long as you request no butter. Stay away from Panda Express which cooks everything in animal stock, and California Pizza Kitchen which covered out cheese-free pizza in Parmesan!
My trip was more about beers with family than fine dining, and it turned out that eating vegan in Vegas was easier than I thought – much easier than on the flight with Thomas Cook anyway! I’d love to return with a bit more cash in my pocket and try some of the more luxurious options, particularly at the Wynn and Encore (and to try the pizza at Slice of Vegas at least!) If you have any additions to this list, do let me know ❤
Deaf Institute has been pretty vegan friendly for a while – they did a vegan club sandwich special a few months ago that I still have dreams about. But recently, they started up the vegan hangover club with a weekly changing menu of vegan specials. I couldn’t bloody wait.
Originally built in 1878 as a deaf institute (surprisingly enough), the stonework outside is pretty epic. Inside, it’s a classic mix of antlers and kitchy wallpaper, but they get away with it without it feeling painfully hipster or too on trend. Anyway, I digress – check out their gigs and general listings, they have so much going on and it’s a great venue.
Back to brunch
I’d heard rumours of pancakes but we got a very savoury menu. If you’re vegan or veggie yourself you’ll know the ‘pain’ of suddenly having to actually choose something instead of just scanning for the V that tells you the 1 thing you’re allowed. It was an intense and desperate 5 minutes choosing from these bad boys:
We chose the seitan burger with cashew cheese, cashew cheese quesadillas (something I’ve really missed as a vegan) with pimped fries to share on the side. Yes the burger already came with fries so it looks a bit carb heavy but this is HANGOVER BRUNCH so get on board. Or go and look at these salad ideas.
The quesadillas were amazing, thin and crispy with a little bean chili inside, and guac and sweet corn salsa on the side. £6.50 well spent. The cashew cheese is the drizzle on top rather than melty inside like a traditional quesadilla – as amazing as that would be, I am picky with vegan cheese (violife sucks) so I’m not disappointed by this – would order again in a heartbeat.
Next, seitan burger. This was probably the ‘worst’ plate. The burger itself was pale and quite bland – if you’re used to the very meaty-style seitan burgers at Brewdog, this is nothing like that, more like an old school Quorn chicken burger. But it was fine, and the toppings made up for it, with the cashew cheese again, aubergine, salad, sweetcorn and generous fries on the side.
Finally, the pimped fries:
Good god. Smothered in bbq sauce, cashew cheese, jalapeños, smoky aubergine, tomato and fresh coriander they were perfect. 10/10. I’ll remember them forever. I had wondered if we were being greedy with the whole double fries thing but WOW no regrets.
Brunch opens at 3 on a Sunday and runs until late. There will be flyer littered around with celebs faces on – if you can tell the bar staff which of the celebs are vegan, you get free popcorn. SPOILER ALERT – they are all vegan, or were at some point in their lives.
Always been a fan of Deaf Institute, and now I love them ever more. If you’ve been on a different day let me know what the menu was!
There are currently two major schools of thought in the salad camp. The first is the traditional, but does it really fill you up/ isn’t it really boring. The second is a newer faction. These people have transcended the humble leaves and carrot on a plate and evolved it into salad jars with layering, Buddha bowls with lineated quadrants, and name checking shit you’ve never even heard of. The salad has been gentrified. Continue reading “Easy office salad inspiration: healthy, tasty, colourful and NOT BORING”
One of the reasons I didn’t go vegan sooner was because I love pizza. That perfect combination of cheese, tomato, basil and bread – my mouth is watering right now. When me & the hub moved in together back in the middle ages (2009) we had to implement a ‘one pizza a week’ rule as we both started piling on the pounds.
Anyway – I’m not a fan of many vegan cheeses, but it turns out you can have delicious, morish, never-want-that-slice-to-end pizzas even as a vegan. And amazingly, Manchester is home to many authentic and highly regarded pizza places (as well as great vegan friendly non-pizza places). I’ve made it my mission to sample as many as possible just to report back to you, beautiful readers #NotAllHeroesWearCapes.
If you’re a pizza fan, you’ll have at least heard of Rudy’s. Located in the middle of nowhere (or 10 minutes away from Pie&Ale) you need a brazen heart and willing stomach to venture that far. No, I’m kidding, it’s fine, you can make it, I believe in you. They have a genuine vegan option on the menu (Marinara) and they were happy for us to customise it, adding some bad ass broccoli. Service was very much on the slow side, but the pizza is amazing. Crust is thin & chewy, sauce is rich & flavourful. The venue feels like some guys found an abandoned building and threw a pizza oven in it – there’s some random graffiti on the walls here & there and the layout is a bit odd like it’s a short term pop up. We can only pray that it stays. Also they serve San Pellegrino orange & lemon as well as the usual alcohols.
If you were scared if venturing to Rudy’s you’re going to struggle with this one. However, the standard Manchester pizza debate is Honest Crust vs Rudy’s so if you visit one you’re sort of legally obliged to visit the other if you ever want to be a real Mancunian. Located in Altrincham market, they also have the Marinara as a ready made vegan option. They recommend I didn’t add any extra toppings, as ‘the beauty is in the simplicity’. How could I go against such advice. It took a while to come as Alty market is super hot right now and everyone who goes wants a pizza, so their little oven was on a backlog. We kept ourselves busy with some big fat olives in the meantime. When the pizza itself came it had really thin slices of garlic nestled in the sauce which was delicious. And obviously, the crust and base were perfect, thin and chewy. Honest Crust is in the middle of Alty market so you’ve got loads of wine & beer options there. Bonus points as I saw Sally Webster from Corrie there, so definitely worth the schlep on the metrolink.
You may or may not have heard of Ply. It’s got a really cool, but unexpected vibe. It feels a bit like you’re hanging around a shop at first, very modern and design-led. It has long Bier Hall style tables that you just crowd in on, and a variety of US craft beers, such as Samuel Adams. There’s a glitterball-styled stone oven sat behind the bar like the most normal thing in the world. We went on a busy Friday about 9pm and received our pizza relatively quickly. There’s no specific vegan option, but I asked for the Roast Vegetables (tomato, red pepper, courgette, aubergine) without mozzarella and they handled it like the simple request that it is. If you’re quick to join the membership programme, you can claim 50% off pizzas until the end of June (Go – Now!)
Dough, Northern Quarter
Dough is a great place to eat. They let you book in large groups, it’s next door and sort of related to Apotheca for delicious cocktails, and they’re super accommodating for any dietary needs. Out of all the places on this list, they’re the only venue that actually offers vegan cheese on your pizza which is an incredible breakthrough.
Unfortunately, vegan cheese isn’t that great (the No-Muh piquant is the only one I’ve bought more than once). And considering that the name of the restaurant is Dough – the pizza bases just don’t compare when you’ve got Honest Crust and Rudy’s in the same round up. They’re fine, much better than anything frozen you’ll find, but it’s a much ‘breadier’ base than a chewy base, if that makes sense. I go for the Goat’s Cheese without the cheese which sounds odd, but I’m a sucker for caramelised onion and tomato tapenade. In addition, they do a vegan sorbet as a dessert, so they’re the only local venue on this list that can do you a pudding too. Also, they have a crazy varied list of pizza toppings so any meat eaters you’re with will be suitably entertained with that rather than delivering 500 questions about why don’t you just have proper cheese. (Short answer: because I’m not a calf).
Dough Pizza Kitchen
Pizza Express, Basically anywhere
I’ve got to include Pizza Express as they’ve made the effort of adding a specific vegan pizza on the menu – the Pianta. Unlike the local options, it comes with loads of veg as toppings including spinach, mushroom, pine nuts, artichoke, tomato, rocket and finished off with garlic oil. I LOVE that they have made the effort and they also include lots of gluten free options for celiacs and people-who-suddenly-avoid-gluten-because-they-think-it’s-cool. It’s fine, it’s nice, and there’s almost always an offer on, and at the end of the day Pizza Express aren’t pretending to be the leaders in pizza. Or maybe they are, but no-one believes them. Anyway, I kick-started mine with some dough balls, you can easily swap the garlic butter for oil&balsamic, or even a tomato/olive tapenade thing. ALso, the raspberry sorbet is vegan too.
Zizzi’s, almost everywhere
Honourable mention because they also just launched a vegan pizza but I haven’t tried it yet.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this list: Congrats! You are a hardcore pizza fan! All your friends love you and your life will be successful and full of glory.
If there’s anywhere I’ve missed that you think deserves a mention please so let me know, always happy to investigate new pizza discoveries!
Edit: This post previously had a review of No1 Watson Street, who have since confirmed that their pizza dough contains milk.
I fucking love summer. I can’t get enough of being outdoors, sitting on the grass barefoot drinking gin & tonics. Lighting a fire when it gets late and an English chill sets in. Part of our quintessential English summer is the BBQ – getting friends and family together over the mutual burning of food. When I was veggie I ate a lot of grilled halloumi, leek & cheese sausages etc. So as this latest heatwave set in it left me thinking – could I still do BBQs? Was I doomed to grilled peppers over and over again? What do vegans eat at BBQs? Don’t worry – turns out it’s fine! Last weekend we had our first BBQ of the summer and I was in heaven. Here’s my menu:
BBQ Tikka Tofu fingers
I spent years getting tofu wrong. You have to treat it well to get a good result. This is a really simple option that should be beautiful as long as you don’t skimp on the golden rule of tofu – drain well.
This is dead easy but needs a bit of prep work – do this early in the day and then you’re laughing later on.
- One block of tofu.
- Coconut oil (you could replace this with any oil that copes well with high heat)
- Tikka powder – or even make your own mix from cumin, coriander, chilli powder and whatnot
- Take a block of tofu, and gently squeeze out the excess water over a sink. If you press gently it should sort of ooze. Then wrap the block in some kitchen roll and place between two plates. Leave this for about half an hour for even more liquid to escape.
- Make yourself a sangria (see below)
- Come back to the tofu after about 30mins of draining and slice it down the middle so you’ve got two thin tofu ‘bricks’. Then cut those in half so they’re half the height, then each of those pieces into about four smaller, thinner rectangles. Basically you end with tofu soldiers.
- Spoon some coconut oil into a small bowl and microwave in bursts for 10 seconds or so until it starts turning to liquid. Probably about a tablespoon when solid should be enough, but don’t go mad stressing over measurements.
- Mix in some tikka If. As you mix in the powder the coconut oil should get even more liquidy and go sort of thick and gloopy. Rub this thick gloopy mixture into your tofu on all sides.
- Once it’s all rubbed in, pour any excess gloop over the top for good luck. Cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least two hours to marinate – the longer the better.
- Once your BBQ is nice and hot, gently place directly onto the wirerack. Turn over when the edge goes a bit golden and crispy.
- If all has gone well, you’ll end up with beautiful crispy on the outside soft on the inside tikka tofu – enjoy.
Chili aubergine rounds
Again, doing these in advance is key.
- One aubergine (eggplant to our US fam)
- Chili oil
- Firstly, you need to gorge your aubergine. Slice it into rounds, about as thick as your finger. Cover these in salt and leave to one side for about half an hour. This will draw out the juices that can make aubergine tough or bitter and instead makes it mushy and delicious.
- Come back to it and scrape off the salt where you can. Noone wants a mouthful of salt, but also don’t stress over every grain.
- Use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to coat the slices in chilli oil.
- Leave in the fridge covered in clingfilm. It can chill happily next to your tofu.
- Grill on a nice hot BBQ on both sides for 5-7 minutes.
- That’s it.
Pile your tofu and aubergine into bread buns with spinach, sliced beef tomatoes, ghurkins, grilled peppers, mustard and whatever else you fancy.
BBQ Garlic flatbreads
Dear readers, I saved the best til last. Also this isn’t my recipe, it’s Mr Jamie Oliver’s so I can’t take credit. Follow steps 1-4 of his basic bread recipe here, then adapt for the BBQ here. I just coated in garlic oil all over, he does something with olive oil and rosemary which does sound good.
- 500g bread flour
- 300 ml tepid water
- 15g fresh yeast
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 level tablespoon salt
- Put your flour in a bowl, make a “well” in the middle. Add half the water, then add you yeast sugar and salt and mix together within the well using a fork.
- Bit by bit, bring in more and more flour from the “walls” of your bowl, until it goes stodgy. Once it’s all in, or it’s getting tough to mix, start adding more and more of the remaining water. You might need more or less flour or water depending on the heat of the room.
- Once you’ve got something that looks like dough, smack it around a bit. Stretch and smack down, push it around until it goes all smooth and elastic. This is really gratifying.
- Leave in a bowl covered in cling film in a warm place until the dough more or less doubles in size. Jamie says half an hour but we ended up leaving ours for like an hour or 90 minutes cuz we were faffing with BBQ coals.
- Break off balls of dough and stretch out into rough flatbread shapes. With your hands, rub garlic oil all over.
- BBQ for about 3 minutes each side – you’ll see the edge go golden and it will stop sticking to the wire rack.
- Serve with more garlic oil and bit of balsamic if you fancy it. The outside will be golden and the inside light and fluffy. I can’t get over how well this came out.
Can’t wait for more BBQ experiments this summer! To finish off here’s my easy sangria – one part red (vegan) wine, one part lemonade, lots of ice, a few shots of brandy, strawberries, lime and apples 🙂
I believe that being vegan, veggie, plant-based or environmentalist, we should all do the best we can, and not feel guilty when we’re not perfect. We all make occasional slip ups, forget to ask the question, or forget how certain products even have a chance of animal ingredients in them (pork in your mascara, anyone?)
Anyway, even when I was vegetarian, I often turned a blind eye to animal ingredients in my booze. I had my excuses: “I’m doing enough already/they’re only waste products/it’s not actually in the drink, just used in processing” etc, etc. The real reason was, that I couldn’t be arsed – I love a boozey Friday and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of that. Finally, I realised I was no different to the people who claimed it’s too hard/inconvenient/expensive to give up meat, and if I’m going to call myself a vegan it’s time to drink responsibly.
Putting theory into practise: time to drink some beer
To celebrate a new level of discipline I headed down to Runaway brewery‘s monthly Grub Fair. Runaway are pretty awesome, they set up in 2014 to brew great beer how they wanted it, and set up in the Green Quarter in Manchester. The third Saturday of every month in association with GRUB, they get local food traders in and set up gazebos and benches in their car park for the Grub Food Fair. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, where you can while away the afternoon in a beer and food coma. Which is how I spent my Saturday this week.
The event caters to all, and looks to make sure their mix of traders includes veggie, vegan and gluten free options, Yes there’s also a lot of meat, but at least you can bring the whole family without any complaints. This month I sampled the leek and aubergine stir fry stew from Maiden Taiwan, followed by some fresh mini vegan donut bites with cinnamon sugar from Fritto Italian Street Food.
Vegan beer at home
Unfortunately, we can’t spend all our weirdly warm but rainy days in Manchester beer gardens. So for the other days of the week, I found this excellent resource called Barnivore that collates information from most beer, wine and spirits brands on whether animal products are used. I’m a big ale lover: I love a strong German Weissbeer, a gentle session bitter, or a lovely blonde (LIKE ME!) I’ve collated below a list some of my regular UK beers that turn out to be vegan (phew). These aren’t particularly the best (although many are delicious), they’re just easy to find, the sort you can stock up on in advance, grab from your local, or always have on hand:
- Stella Artois
- Carlsberg Export
- Brewdog This is Lager
- Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde (my favourite and my namesake)
- Brewdog Dead Pony (ironically)
- Black Sheep Golden Sheep (BOTTLE is ok, cask is NOT OK)
- Marble Beers (not the honey versions obv)
- JW Lees: everything except the standard Cask Bitter
- Obviously Runaway brewery
I have heard that as a rule of thumb, smaller microbreweries are less likely to feel the need to use random animal parts in brewing – this may or may not be true.
The above list has a strong Manchester skew as I love to support our local brewers, but the Barnivore search list is completely global.
All this has made me thirsty now: long legs, green heart, full glass…
Do share your favourite vegan beer finds or non vegan warnings if you have any!
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is made from soy beans, and is an alternative to tofu. Tofu is made from bean curd rather than the whole bean, so loses some of the fibres and nutrients from the soy beans, and is considered more processed. Tempeh on the other hand uses whole beans, contains about 50% more protein and more than 3x the fibre of tofu. It is considered ‘less processed’ as the soy beans go through less faffing to get to the end product. Some people apparently have trouble digesting tofu, but tempeh is supposed to be easier on the digestive system. So there you go.
I like having a wide range of dishes to turn to so I wanted to give tempeh a go. I used to struggle with tofu, but now have several go-to tofu meals that I love. Tempeh seems to be a lot less talked about and I think I know why:
It looks like a cross between a highly sweetcorny poo and the front of a pebble dashed house. I gallantly continued.
How to cook tempeh
I read several recipes and advice and a lot of them talk about boiling it. Apart from rice and pasta I never boil anything so I couldn’t be arsed with that. I then found a few ‘marinate and fry’ recipes so I decided to freestyle on that basis. My approach in the kitchen is alwaysalways that I know what I like better than the recipe writer, and I’m a constant substitutor if I don’t have the right ingredients in the house. In this case I mixed soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger powder and garlic powder in a bowl, sliced the tempeh pretty thinly, brushed the tempeh with the marinade and left it in the fridge for an hour. In retrospect, I’d probably add some chili or hot sauce next time to this mix.
I left it for an hour then heated up some seseame seed oil in a wok. Sesame seed oil has a hotter boiling point than things like olive oil so it’s great for when you want a high temperature. Also it tastes amazing, sort of toasty, nutty.
With this high-ish heat I only needed to do the slices for a couple of minutes each side before they turned a nice toasty colour. You might be wondering about the different shapes – I experimented with different ways of chopping the tempeh to see if it affected how well it stayed together – there was little difference, I’d stick with the slice like salami approach.
At the same time, I fried a leek in some coconut oil, then chucked in a tin of chickpeas, a generous amount of spinach and some pinenuts with a spoonful of Thai green curry paste in a saucepan. (Asda’s Thai curry pastes are vegan, but most other places and brands put fish sauce in so watch out). And here’s how it looked:
I served it with Thai sweet chili sauce.
Maybe 6/10 for tempeh and 8/10 overall. OK, so tempeh isn’t my fave. It’s quite dense, reminds me a lot of nut roast which I was never keen on specifically for that reason. Taste-wise, it tasted fine and its good to have different foods in your diet. I’d definitely make it spicier next time and try it again. To be honest, the leek and chickpea concoction was my fave part of the meal. Also a whole tempeh ‘sausage’ between two people is definitely too much! I would say that it’s good enough to give it another go but I can’t see it replacing tofu any time soon.
If you’ve got any of your own tempeh recommendations please let me know!
Love Kayley x