Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Vegan Mofo #2: Choc Chip Waffle Trifle

So today's topic is to recreate a childhood meal. I struggled with this one for a while, I had loads of great tasting stuff growing up so it was hard to choose just one thing. I decided to pick something I had occasionally as a kid that I wasn't massively keen on but something that I now love. Trifle. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a trifle hater, but I've never been super keen on boozy desserts and jelly is okay but not my favourite.

So I've created a waffle based, alcohol and jelly free trifle. It's awesome.

Choc Chip Waffle Trifle

For the choc chip waffles:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp flaxmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g chopped plain/dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dairy free milk
  1. Grease and fire up the waffle iron
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients and then stir in the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined
  3. You want to make small waffles for this dish, so spoon only 1 tbsp of the mixture onto each side of the iron. Cook according to the directions of your waffle maker. These only took around 30 seconds - 1 minute to cook for me. You don't want them to be super crispy, you want them spongey so they'll soak up all the tasty trifle ingredients.
  4. When cooked, set aside.
For the trifle:

  • 1 batch of choc chip waffles (I made around 12-14 small ones)
  • 2 punnets of strawberries, sliced
  • chocolate syrup
  • 2 cartons soya custard
  • 2 cartons vegan whipping cream
  1. Whip up the soya cream and set aside ready for layering
  2. Begin with the mini waffles, layer the bottom with waffle, then custard, then sliced strawberries. Squeeze a load of chocolate sauce over the strawberry later and then top with whipped creamed. Repeat.
  3. Top with strawberries, choc sauce and centre with a waffle if you have any left.
Serves 12-15 people if you're going for reasonable portions...whatever they are.

This trifle is so good! So fricking good! It was super easy to cook up mini waffles to replace cake, way less faffing about. If you wanna cut down on prep time on the day, it's easy to make the waffles ahead and freeze them.

I had homemade chocolate sauce to hand, very easy to make. Just heat up 1 can of full fat coconut milk with 4 tbsp cocoa. Add 6 tbsp maple syrup, pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla, cook until thickened. Leave to cool and pour into a jar, store in the fridge. Great to have handy when you're spending an entire month eating waffles...amirite?!

I don't think I'll ever make trifle any other way.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Vegan Mofo #1: Breakfast Waffling

Holy crap! Mofo is here! I can't believe it's time already. Right here goes...

Rise and shine! It's MoFo time! Tell us about your breakfast!

Now this was an easy topic to get stuck in with. I'm not really into breakfast, I like to leave at least a few hours after getting out of bed before I eat, so breakfast isn't usually part of my day. There are two things that can tempt me into eating breakfast. Waffles and a good old fry up. I decided to combine the two and waffle a few things up.

Waffle Hash Browns

  • 2 large potatoes, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • a drizzle of garlic oil (you can use any old oil)
  1. Preheat and grease the waffle iron. Squeeze all of the liquid out of the grated potatoes and pop into a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add seasoning and some oil, stir through.
  3. When the iron is hot enough, ball the mixture in your hands and pop it into the iron. Cook according to your machines directions
Makes 2 waffles

These were so easy to make, it feels like a bit of a cheat to post this for MoFo, but it definitely saved time on making breakfast. While they were waffling away I had time to fry up some ground veggie sausage, tempeh and whip up a tofu scramble. These were quicker to make by hand than cooking frozen hash browns (the time stated on the cooking directions is NEVER accurate) and they were tastier too. I liked using garlic oil in these, it gave them a bit of extra flavour but I loved the texture most of all. Crispy on the outside and smooth and silky on the inside. Perfect.

 I was originally planning to waffle some sosmix, but we had sausage that needed using up in the fridge. Instead I decided to waffle a crumpet. Oh. My. This was a genius idea. They were so good!! Sadly you do lose the light airy pockets in the crumpets, but this is replaced by some large waffle craters that collect a good amount of melted soya spread. Brilliant! Nothing like hot dairy free spread dripping down yer chin on a morning eh?

I managed to get this breakfast together within 10-15 minutes, maybe I can be convinced to eat breakfast more often.

Are you a breakfast person? What did you get stuck into today?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Vegan Mofo 2015 is coming!

So here I am again, crawling back to my blog...

If I have any long term readers left you can probably see the pattern here; lots of manic posting and then months of silence until I come back with my apologies before the cycle starts all over again. My blog is a pretty good representation on how I'm doing mental health wise. Over the last 6 months or so I've not been in a good place. I think I'm done with beating myself up over it. When I'm depressed I can barely feed myself, never mind make something spectacular and spend time writing about it. I am sorry to disappoint folk, but that's my style I guess.

The last few months have led to huge changes for me. Some of them are exciting, a lot of it is really scary but unfortunately I don't feel like I can explain it all on here. There are certain 'I know you in real life' people who read my posts which makes it harder for me to be open on here.

I can let you know about one thing though, I have changed my name to Emil! I've wanted to do this for a long while and I'm super happy with it. My obsession with Germany led me to this name. I found a list of names and Emil really stood out for me. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realised I'd fallen in love with Emil's Vegan Mayo at the Biofach trade show in February this year. I have subconsciously managed to name myself after vegan mayo...goddamn. At least it's good mayo.

I've managed to somehow get myself together in time for Vegan Mofo, so I will be participating this year. For anyone not in the loop, Vegan Mofo = Vegan Month of Food, a time where loads of amazing bloggers challenge themselves to post 30 vegan related posts throughout September. This will be my third Mofo. Last year I managed to post every single day and also managed to win a Mofie award for 'Most Ridiculous Theme' - an award I am incredibly proud of as I spent a month eating some of the worst food of my life. If you didn't catch it, you can check out my veganised recipes from Bizarre and Outdated Cookbooks here

This year the Mofo organisers have implemented some rule changes. There will now be daily themes set that bloggers have to follow. I'm going to be honest and say that I wasn't thrilled when I heard about this rule change. I understand the reasoning about it, to try and encourage more people to take part, especially those who struggle to stick to themes or come up with one solid theme for the month but I'm someone who thrives on setting a theme. I really like to challenge myself with  thembecause I get really stuck into it and creative. Last years theme was painful but it was so much fun and really took me out of my comfort zone. I think the new daily themes are a good idea, but I don't think they should be compulsory. I also found out about the rule change after I had invested £40 in a gadget for my theme and many hours of planning. I wasn't willing to give that up, so I have adapted my theme so that it will link in with the daily topics set. Some of the links are pretty tenuous and may come across as sarcastic, but I am a sarcastic jerk, and stubborn too. I can only apologise for that.

But Mofo organisers, please consider making this rule change optional next year! While I have adapted my ideas, I do feel like the rigidity of the daily topics has stopped me being as creative as I would have liked to be. And last year my creativity was hilarious!

Anyway, enough moaning and time to move on. What is my theme?


That's right, this September I will be bringing you 30 vegan waffle recipes. I fricking love waffles and after last year I was determined to set myself an edible theme. I am super excited and I hope you are too!

I have had to do a fair bit of advance cooking and writing this time round as from September 12th - September 20th I will be going to Beijing! So during those dates I will be publishing pre-written posts and then after Mofo I will write all about my travels.

Right, that is all. I'll catch you all on September 1st...bring on Vegan Mofo 2015!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Belgian Beerless Stew

As you can probably tell by the huge number of reviews on here recently, I've not been too experimental in the kitchen. I spend a lot of my time at work preparing food, so by the time I get home to my own kitchen, the enthusiasm for creative cooking has gone. I'm still eating meals, but generally relying far too much on pasta with pesto, veggie sausages/burgers and scrambled tofu. I finally had a nice long weekend with no plans, so decided to flick through some cookbooks for a bit of inspiration.

I wasn't really feeling it until I came across a recipe for a Belgian Beer Stew. I don't know why this caught my eye, I don't drink and I've always thought of stew as a dish I've perfected. I read through the ingredients and was really intrigued to see that the dish contained gingerbread. Baked goods in a stew? Interesting. I read the description which recommended authentic Belgian mustard and gingerbread but gave the option to use whatever you could get your hands on. Cool. I read further and was told that there is no substitute for the Belgian beer used in this dish. In fact, it states that if I couldn't get hold of a sweet Belgian beer I shouldn't bother...

Well...I'm not having that. No one is telling me that alcohol is crucial in a recipe, especially if it's a recipe that has bloody cake in it. No. I don't believe it. So I came up with this, and believe it or not, I think I made a pretty good Belgian Beerless Stew here.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 packs of Fry's meaty strips (or sub with homemade seitan/portobello mushrooms)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp yeast extract
  • 2 slices of homemade vegan Peperkoek (I used this recipe, but substituted the egg for a flax egg and reduced baking time)
  • worcester sauce
  • brown sugar to taste
  • salt and pepper
  1. First off, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions for 15 minutes or so, until they are soft, translucent and slightly caramelised.
  2. Add half the Fry's strips, the bay leaves and the mixed herbs. Pour in half of the vegetable stock and add the wholegrain mustard. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on a low heat for 45 minutes.
  3. Stir the yeast extract into the rest of the stock and add to the stew, along with the rest of the fry's strips and a generous splash of worcester sauce. Crumble in the two slices of peperkoek and continue to cook through on a low heat until the cake begins to dissolve in the stew.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and taste. If you think it needs a little extra sweetness, add a little brown sugar before serving.
Serves 4

This was so sweet and good, I don't think it missed the beer at all. I think using red onion and cooking it right down gave it the sweetness the beer would have provided and the yeast extract really gives it that 'meaty' flavour. It felt a bit bizarre eating a stew with bits of gingerbread in, but it was surprisingly nice!

I originally only planned to use one pack of the Fry's strips, but when cooking the first box down they completely disintegrated into the sauce! I think next time I'll use a load of mushrooms and then just add one pack of faux beef at the end.

The recipe suggests serving this stew with fries, but I decided to defy it's advice to the bitter end and served mine with smiley faces. Yeah. Fancy.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Yu Fruity Chews

Last month I got some samples from Yu! and I've finally found the time so sit down and write about them on here for you. Yu! sell a range of fruit based, healthy snacks that aim to taste like sweets but without all the unnecessary sugar added in, they're just made with 100% fruit.

I thought these sounded interesting, so was looking forward to giving them a try. I received 3 flavours from the vegan range, Mango Stars, Strawberry Hearts and Raspberry Mini Chews. Looking at the ingredients on the back, they contain a selection of pureed fruit concentrates and fruit pectin is used as the gelling agent, so sounds good. Unfortunately, I was also sent 3 yoghurt coated fruit bite samples, which was disappointing as it was clear that I'm a vegan blogger, but mistakes happen I guess.

So, I cracked open all of the vegan ones and gave them a try. It's weird how much they taste like sweets considering they're just made up of fruit, but they definitely had the texture of chewy, jelly like sweets. My favourite was the Strawberry Hearts, I love strawberry and these were really tasty and surprisingly sweet. The Raspberry Mini Chews were also pretty good, they had a nice sharpness to them. The Mango Stars I wasn't so keen on, maybe because I've fallen in love with the dried mango we sell at work, but these just didn't do it for me.

The bags are pretty small (18g), which makes them a handy snack if you've got kids and want to keep them quiet, or want something sweet for their lunchboxes. I did a quick price comparison online and found supermarkets are selling bags of 5 for £2, which comes out at 40p each.

These are definitely a product I'll be looking out for when I'm hungry in town and want a quick snack but they're probably not really something I'd go out of my way to buy on a regular basis, just because I'd prefer to have dried fruit. I definitely think they're a handy product to know about if you've got kids running around though.

Check out their website for more details, otherwise keep your eyes peeled at your local Sainsbury's and Waitrose for these.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Richmond Tea Rooms - Manchester

A friend of mine is having a baby shower in May and really wanted to find somewhere in Manchester that did a decent vegetarian and vegan afternoon tea. There is the Tea Hive in Chorlton that is known to have a vegan offering, but as my friend and many of her guests (including myself) work in Chorlton, she wanted to try and have it elsewhere. I searched a few vegan pages on Facebook and came across a suggestion for the Richmond Tea Rooms in Manchester's Gay Village. I looked it up and it sounded great, so forwarded the suggestion on to my friend. She got in touch with them by email and it was confirmed that they could do both a vegetarian and vegan afternoon tea, and with notice could include vegan cakes as well. Great! My friend wanted to do a trial run, so emailed to ask if we could check it out 4-5 weeks later, and was told that it would be fine.

A few days before the trial, my friend got in touch to remind them and ask if the vegan option would still be available to try, a reply came a day or so later to confirm that it would be fine and there was no need for us to book. Awesome! My friend, her best friend and I met up today to give it a try. As soon as I saw my friend she looked a little concerned, the tea rooms had got in touch just as she set off to say that they'd had a busy weekend so were out of vegan cake, but a new batch were in the oven and they were looking forward to seeing us. My friend emailed back to ask if they needed more time to get ready as we'd be there within the hour, but no reply. We turned up at 2.15pm and asked if the vegan cakes were ready. The staff member we spoke to went to the kitchen to check and came back to say that they weren't yet in the oven so it would be hours until they were ready. We were a little confused as we'd been told they were already in the oven, we mentioned this but the look on his face gave away that this really hadn't been the case. He suggested we give them a few hours and hoped we didn't mind warm cake as they most likely wouldn't be cooled in time.

A little annoying but as we all work in retail we understood that sometimes weekends can be a nightmare and small businesses can only do their best. We decided to go watch a film at the cinema, which would give them almost 3 hours to have everything ready.

We got back to Richmond Tea Rooms at 5pm and we were starving! We'd been saving ourselves to eat at 2pm, so you can imagine how hungry we were by the time we returned. We asked about the vegan cakes and were told they'd just come out of the oven (how long does it take to bake and cool a few cakes?), so they could accommodate us. We were seated quickly and given a menu to choose from. We took the time before ordering to take in the decor at this place. It's awesome. It's Alice in Wonderland themed, it's OTT, it is really really cool. We all loved the look of the place and really wanted to have a good experience so we could come back with 20 people in May. I was also excited to blog about a vegan afternoon tea option, it would be my first proper afternoon tea experience too.

We ordered 2 vegan Queen's Tea and 1 vegetarian version. This would consist of 'selection of cakes and delights. Finger sandwiches and savoury pastry. Homemade fruit scone served with clotted cream and fruit preserve. Pot of tea of your choice'. The server studied the description before telling us that there was only one vegan cake, so we would get more than one slice of it to make up for the lack of variety. We accepted but were a bit confused as the email had mentioned 'cakes' and the wait seemed a bit excessive for just one cake. Oh well. We got served our teas quickly but soon had our server return to say that they didn't have much in the way of sandwich fillings, they asked if roasted veg, hummus and sundried tomatoes would be okay. We said that would be great, it's a pretty common vegan sandwich filling but for a non vegan place, an acceptable offering.

It wasn't long before our server returned again to inform us that the pastry chef had not been in today, so there were no vegan scones. He said that instead we could have a meringue with fruit inside it. 'A vegan meringue?' I asked. 'Yes'. 'Without egg???' I replied. 'Yes'. My friend said 'okay, as long as it's definitely vegan'. I was feeling really awkward and uncomfortable at this point. There's no way they make vegan meringue, I explained to my friends just how difficult it is to make and how rare it is to find a vegan version. We decided to wait and see. So we waited. And waited. We waited for a really really long time. Over an hour infact. We watched all the tables who came in long after us get served and finish their afternoon tea. It was painful. We were ravenous. Our tea got cold.

Whilst I was in great company and it was fun to imagine the staff in the kitchen googling 'vegan meringue' and shitting themselves, it was impossible to relax or enjoy the atmosphere because we were anxious about what we were going to receive and how long it was going to take. Not long before it arrived, one of us went over to speak to another member of staff to check on the meringue situation and remind them of how long we had been waiting. They were shocked that we had been offered meringue and confirmed that they did not make a vegan version, they also apologised for the wait and said the supervisor who had been the email contact would come over soon to chat to us. We also got a new pot of tea each to replace the ones that had gone cold.

Our food came over. We noticed immediately that there was no meringue and breathed a sigh of relief. I noticed 2 cake options though, which concerned me as we'd been told when we ordered that there was only one. We asked if they were all vegan and got told that yes, everything was vegan. Here's our vegan tea for 2.

The bottom tier was salad, oatcakes, hummus and then the hummus, roasted veg and tomato sandwiches. Tier two was 2 massive slabs of chocolate cake. The top tier was 2 more massive slabs of some kind of apple, fruit cake thing and some raspberry biscuits. When the server first described the tiers to us he called the chocolate cake a vegan cake but didn't do the same with the other cake option or biscuits on the top tier. He did describe them as vegan when we asked, but considering all the different things we had been told already that day, I was becoming really wary of the food.

I'd just like to show you the vegetarian option, as this was important to us. We didn't want the veggie option to look superior to the vegan one at the baby shower.

It does though, doesn't it? Our vegan option was not exactly as pretty or dainty as the vegetarian version. The cakes are iced here and there's a nice savoury pastry included, jam and fruit preserve. We reasoned that our tea would look better compared to the veggie one if we'd had the vegan scones, as we'd have got jam too. I also suggested that we could get hold of some vegan clotted cream and ask the team rooms to dish it out for the vegan options on the big day. At this point, despite being really disappointed we were desperate to make this work for the baby shower because we loved the look of the place so much.

We started off with the sandwiches and oatcakes, the sandwiches were nice but oatcakes...meh, they're oatcakes, nothing special. I then picked up my massive slab of chocolate cake (I was waiting for the supervisor before I dared to touch the other cake as I was doubting whether it was vegan). It was ridiculously heavy and looked incredibly dense. It was not cooked in the middle. The outside was overdone and chewy and the inside was like glue. It pretty much stuck my mouth together. I was hungry so persevered but eventually gave up as it was so unpleasant.

At this point the supervisor came over to chat to us. She apologised for the wait before telling us that she had no idea we were coming today and that they'd not had enough notice to get a good vegan option together for us. My friend pointed out that she had emailed 3 days ago and that the supervisor had responded twice, including once this morning. We were then told that she hadn't received the emails she had replied to, and that perhaps someone else had emailed my friend back. My friend explained our frustrations, that we had come in twice today, gone and spent money at the cinema to buy them more time, come back and waited over an hour for food, had been offered vegan meringues and that the chocolate cake was undercooked. The supervisor responded by saying she thought we were coming in May and then said that she was due to go home an hour ago so she didn't really have time to sort it out right now. My friend responded that we should have been home over 3 hours ago and that we really were not happy. The supervisor asked us if we could wait a little while so she could resolve the issue.

We waited for about 20 minutes. She went back and forth between an office in the back and the drinks bar where she was asking the other staff loudly and obviously 'exactly what time did they turn up?'. Just a tip for customer service here, don't make it obvious to the customer that you think they're bullshitting, it's just bloody rude. Honestly, what kind of customer service training does this place give out?

When the supervisor returned she owned up to receiving the emails and responding to was clearly lying to us the first time round. She then went into a lengthy explanation about the weekend and how busy they were and how they'd lost two pastry chefs so had an agency replacing them. She assured us that for the baby shower they would make all these improvements and it would run smoothly and were told that we could have 50% off our bill as if it were a favour. We hadn't even finished our afternoon tea at this point. My friend responded by saying that the baby shower would definitely not be happening there as the way we had been treated was just not acceptable and she didn't want the stress, she then added that we shouldn't be paying at all, especially since we had spent 5 hours trying to get afternoon tea! We'd spent 3 hours at the cinema, which cost us £25 to do so, and along with the wait for the food and the wait to get the whole mess resolved, we'd spent 2 hours at the tea rooms. We were told that a supervisor could not give us more than 50% off so we would have to wait again while she contacted the owners.

Jesus Christ, how much waiting did we have to do? We just wanted to leave by this point, we'd expected to be home hours ago and had pretty much wasted the whole day. This time we didn't have to wait long before the supervisor soon came back to say there would be no charge. Her return was so quick that I doubt she even contacted the owners at all. We left the remainder of the tea and went to leave.

One last slap in the face was noticing the supervisor bitching about us as we were leaving. Nice touch.

I am so gutted by how awful this experience was, I will never go back to Richmond Tea Rooms. Not only was the customer service awful, but I doubt how vegan the vegan option really was, especially after all the lies and misinformation. It is so frustrating as a customer to have complaints met with outrageous lies and then to have the blame placed on you. I have worked in retail for all of my working life and whilst I don't believe that 'the customer is always right', I expect a decent level of customer service and expect my complaints to be met with some level of understanding and respect. We got none of this from Richmond Tea Rooms. I would have been so much happier if the supervisor had held her hands up, admitted she messed up and apologised. We didn't need a long explanation full of reasons for why it had happened, we just wanted it sorted. And I cannot believe we were expected to pay for any of it after all those shenanigans, we'd left more than half of it on the table anyway.

So that's my experience of Richmond Tea Rooms. Anyone know of any decent vegan afternoon tea options in Manchester? My friend hasn't had an easy pregancy so far and really deserves a special day with zero stress! Suggestions in the comments please!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Mushroom and Fava Bean Stew

I have fallen in love with fava beans. Partly because they're delicious, but mostly because no soaking is required. I'm not organised enough to remember to soak and boil the hell out of my pulses, so quick cook beans are something I get pretty excited about.

The weather here in Manchester has been really grim so I've been craving comfort food, this dish really hit the spot.

Mushroom and Fava Bean Stew

  • generous splash of olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 450g portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g dried hulled fava beans
  • vegetable stock
  • frozen spinach
  • salt & pepper
  • splash of worcester sauce
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the leek and onion and fry for 10 minutes or so, until golden. 
  2. Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme and bay leaves and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their own liquid.
  3.  Add the fava beans and enough vegetable stock to cover the mixture. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Add some frozen spinach and heat through for another 10 minutes or so.
  5. Season with salt, pepper and a good splash of worcester sauce before serving
Serves 4-6

I loved this stew, I love the thyme and mushroom combination with the nutty fava beans. I think if I made it again I'd add some dried mushrooms for extra flavour. This would also work with rosemary instead of thyme.