Monday, 2 June 2014

A Vegan in Berlin: Day 2

I'm ashamed to say we slept in pretty late on our first proper day in Berlin. I'd had plans of hitting the museums around Potsdamer Platz in the early morning before heading over to Friedrichshrain for more tasty food. Due to the late start and my realisation that the Film Museum was closed on Monday's, we decided to have a big breakfast before heading to the Asisi Panorama and the Judisches Museum both within 10 minutes of our apartment.
We ended up having what was the first of our daily homemade German breakfasts. Turns out my love of faux meats and cheeses made me a bit of a pro at these. Our first was a simple fried sausage, fried schnitzel with cheeze on top alongside corn cakes, a creamy cucumber dill spread and some slices of vegan 'ham'. Looking back, this breakfast was a little tame compared to what I was putting on our plates on our last few days.

Before hitting the museums we decided to check our the local Lidl to get some more breakfast supplies. The German Lidl's are so much better than what we have here in the UK. We picked up some frozen pastries and some juice. There was a fair bit of accidentally vegan chocolate and biscuits but I decided before arriving in Berlin where I really wanted to spend my money when it came to sweet stuff so I skipped on these.

After our brief Lidl distraction we headed straight over towards Checkpoint Charlie. It was weirdly touristy considering there wasn't all that much there and weird how in just a short walk from our apartment the atmosphere was completely different. The Asisi Panorama is located just by the Mauer Museum, next to a square full of takeaway vans and a souvenir shop. The best part was this section of the Berlin wall with a cow on it. I name this photograph 'Die Frau, die Kuh und die blassen Beine' (The woman, the cow and the pale legs - my German isn't great so don't quote me on the title)

Asisi Panorama

Because Tourist information sites can explain this better than me, this is what the Panorama is about

"THE BERLIN WALL – The asisi Panorama on a divided Berlin by the artist Yadegar Asisi at Checkpoint Charlie at the corner of Friedrichstra├če and Zimmerstra├če consists of a cylindrical steel rotunda that displays a panorama of the daily routine on both sides of the Berlin Wall on an autumn day in the 1980s.
Asisi, who actually lived in Kreuzberg in the 1980s, has bundled his memories in the panorama and goes into great detail in his narration of stories, which would not have happened that way at the same time"

As you enter the building you find yourself in a room with a wall covered in photos, video clips and text, showing stories of peoples experiences of the wall. You can then walk through to see the painted wall. Obviously it's not completely accurate, certain buildings haven't been painted in as they obstructed the view and scenes painting along the wall come from Asisi's memories and others detailed stories, which would not have happened at the same time. There are steps up onto a platform, so it feels like you're looking out over the wall and there are audio clips of speeches that play out as you take it all in. It's all pretty realistic and a good experience in all.

I was expecting a little more, but it was just those two rooms. At €10 each I probably wouldn't visit again but I'm still glad I did. The artwork and stories were incredible and I really did feel like I'd travelled back in time.

We browsed some souvenirs and then headed back over to Lindenstrasse to check out the Judisches Museum

Judisches Museum

This museum was fantastic but a few words of warning if you plan to visit. You need a lot of time for this, there are security checks on the way in and you'll need either a passport or a driving licence as a deposit if you want an audio guide.

The Judisches Museum is one of Europes largest Jewish Museums. The museum consists of two buildings, one of which is a new addition, built specificially for the museum by architect Daniel Libeskind. It's really hard to explain how incredible the journey through the museum is. You enter a traditional building before heading down into tunnels that lead you to a modern zig zag that stands next to the original building. The building itself is so amazing that you could spend hours just walking around admiring it, on top of all the exhibits and extra info you could easily spend an entire day at this museum.

I won't go into detail about everything but will share some of my photos so I can at least try to show you how awesome this was.

This was one of the few voided spaces, Fallen Leaves. There are 10 000 faces punched out of steel in this space and visitors are encouraged to walk along the space. Menashe Kadishman dedicated this work not just to all the Jewish victims but to all victims of violence. I walked along this stretch of space and it was haunting hearing the clanging sound of metal echoing around the room.

The view from the top of the stairs, which we reached after walking through all of the tunnels:

The additional building of this museum. Shame I couldn't capture how it zig zags around but a quick google will show you what it looks like:

Amazing tunnel that led to the gardens:

After a long day of museums my urge to find more great vegan food was too strong to ignore, especially after I bumped into this dude.

During our breakfast I'd managed to get a small food plan written up so we could take out a few places in one glorious hit. We headed back over to Friedrichshain to visit Cupcake, Berliner Eis and Zeus Pide Pizza. We visited in this order because Cupcake was due to close at 8pm and because I decided one can eat dessert before mains when in Berlin.


We only briefly popped into Cupcake to grab some cake to go. The shop itself was really cute, the way you'd hope a cupcake shop to look. It was a real shame that we couldn't sit about, but ice cream was calling for us.

 I only intended us to leave with one baked item each but considering the only vegan cake option was vanilla and there were also peanut butter chocolate brownies, I figured we'd have to get two of each. The staff were really friendly and helpful at pointing out what was and wasn't vegan. Our cupcakes ended up a bit squashed on the journey home so I haven't photographed them, but they were traditionally pretty piped American style cupcakes. I do have a photo of our beautifully packaged brownies though!

My verdict: Brownies great, Cupcakes bad!

I was really sad about the cake, the flavour was pretty good and I liked the buttercream. However, the sponge was so dry! I genuinely struggled to get it down my throat. It's a shame because the brownie was perfect. It was beautifully gooey and moist inside but had that perfect thin crust on the outside.

Definitely worth a visit in the area but if you have the choice, go for the brownie.

Berliner Eis

Another non vegan place with lots of vegan options. Thanks to the helpful staff I learnt that all the sorbets were vegan friendly, as were the waffle cones. Awesome! I'm pretty sure it was no more than €3 for 2 scoops. I had strawberry and chocolate and it was delicious. The weather was still really good so it was lovely to sit outside on the comfy seating and enjoy our ice creams in the sun. I even took what is probably my first selfie.

Zeus Pide Pizza

We finished our trio of non vegan but vegan friendly eateries by heading to Zeus. I'd heard about this place from a friend from work who had visited Berlin a week before we went. They have an entire separate vegan menu and there was so much choice. I ordered the Zeus, which iirc was 'ham' 'salami' chilli, mushrooms, cheeze and tomato sauce on the base, my partner in crime ordered a classic Hawaii.

These were probably the best pizzas I've ever eaten. The base was perfectly thin and crispy. The vegan cheese was melted beautifully and evenly spread on the pizza. The toppings were ridiculously realistic but staff confirmed that my pizza was indeed completely vegan. We decided after our first bite that we would definitely return before our trip was up.

The pizza put me in a food coma, I can't remember how we got home but we managed it somehow.

Next installment coming soon! Tschuss!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Vegan in Berlin: Day 1

At 10.30am last Sunday our City Night Line train from Paris arrived in Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The 13 hour train journey hadn't been as bad as expected but finally the months of waiting were over, my holiday had officially begun. Before I could get too excited, I had to find my way to our apartment, which was located on Lindenstrasse, near Kochstrasse (Checkpoint Charlie) and not too far from Kreuzberg. I managed to get us both a weekly Bus/Tram/Train/U-Bahn/S-Bahn ticket from the Tourist Information Centre easily enough for the reasonable price of €28.80 (around £23) each. It took as a while to figure out the best way to Kochstrasse but with a little bit of help we managed to get to our apartment by 11am.

After dropping our luggage off and having a quick shower, I was ready to start exploring! We hadn't slept well on the train over so I knew that after our initial excitement we were both likely to crash by late afternoon. I figured that as the sun was out, it would be wise to spend the day mooching about and getting to know the city a little bit. Food was also the priority, having picked at crisps, biscuits, bread and hummus during our journey, I was ready for a proper meal. We decided to visit Berlin's famous Schivelbeiner Strasse (Vegan Avenue), so armed with a map, empty rucksacks and a shedload of Euros, we headed over to the U-Bahn.


First stop on Schivelbeiner Strasse was Veganz. I was so freakin' excited to finally see this amazing chain of all Vegan Supermarkets. Since they announced plans to open a store in London later this year, the hype and excitement in the UK had got me buzzing. I was prepared for this visit and I'd saved up a lot of money to spend there.

Now...I don't want it to look like I'm starting on a downer here, I think Veganz is cool, honest. However, after all the hype and excitement, I didn't think it was all that. Now, before you pelt me with mouldy tofu, hear me out here. Throughout my 7 years of veganism I've been lucky enough to live in London,  I visited Brighton regularly and I now live in Manchester, a 10 minute cycle from Unicorn Grocery (where I also happen to work) and a little further away in town is The Eighth Day and V Revolution (home of tasty vegan junk food). I'm a very privileged vegan, I have amazing options close to home, which is why I think the whole Veganz experience was pretty underwhelming. Had I not left Hampshire 6.5 years ago and turned up at Veganz I reckon I would have gone insane with all the choice.

Veganz has a lot to offer, the chillers full of European and American mock meats and cheeses are really impressive. I was really happy that I could get my hands on Tofurky Kielbasa and Fieldroast sausages. The freezer cabinets were equally impressive, loads of choice when it came to frozen desserts. There were also some great packet pudding mixes, a huge choice of chocolate spreads/nut butters, a decent vegan dog food range, lots of chocolate bars etc. The biggest problem was the price. I mentioned that I'd saved up a lot of money for my trip there, but it wasn't enough for me to really get hold of what I wanted. On my first shop here I spent around £50 and it didn't get me much. I'm aware there's a lot of stuff that's flown in from the US, so obviously that's going to be pricey but it wasn't just the imported stuff that burnt a hole in my wallet, there were German brands there that were prices I wasn't comfortable paying, I could get some of it cheaper back in the UK!

The other issue I had was the tiny selection of poor quality fruit and veg. It was worse in the Schivelbeiner Strasse location than the Warschauer Strasse store, but the vegetables looked limp and lifeless, the broccoli was going brown and clearly past it's best. Disappointing as it was the first section a customer see's in the shop and it looked so depressing! The small amount of fresh produce on offer just confirmed my thoughts that Veganz is a shop for vegan substitutes, not really a supermarket. I definitely would not be able to do a weekly food shop if I lived there (not that I could ever afford it anyway!)

Saying that, it's a great place for new vegans, for the vegan curious and those lucky enough to have a money tree growing in their back garden. Whilst I have my criticisms, the shop is a positive thing for Veganism and I look forward to the UK having a shop with the word "Vegan" brightly displayed outside it and lots of delicious food inside. I just hope people don't get the impression that the prices inside are a reflection of the realistic cost of living vegan.

Attached to both Veganz is a Goodies cafe and Avesu vegan shoe store. Avesu was closed but luckily for us. Goodies was open and offering brunch..

Goodies Cafe (Schivelbeiner Strasse)

We bought our wristbands for all you can eat brunch at Goodies from Veganz. It was just under €30 for 2 of us, not cheap if you're visiting late in the afternoon like we were, but reasonable if you have a long afternoon free to eat lots of tasty food.

There was a lot of great food to choose from and different dishes kept appearing between each sitting. The self serve table started with bagels, spreads, cereals and milks before moving along to some raw salad dishes and then some cooked items at the end. I only had space for 2 plates but I managed to try most of the dishes available.

My favourite was a raw creamy broccoli dish, small florets of broccoli in a creamy nut based dressing, it was pretty cheesy. There was also a delicious curry and an amazing pasta dish too. I also liked the raw crackers with what I think was a raw vegan cheeze piped on top. It was really tasty, wholesome food. It wasn't too rich and I think had we got there earlier we would have stayed a lot longer so we could try more.

Unfortunately the combination of a full tummy and lack of sleep meant that we had to return to our apartment for a few hours to catch up on a little sleep. To keep me going, I had one of these awesome peanut butter smores from Veganz.

After a little rest we got up to do some more wandering. After a long walk around Friedrichshain we headed over to Voner...


I never liked Doner Kebabs in my pre-vegan days but something about getting a vegan version made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This place was ace. I got myself some voner 'meat' with the peanut sauce and fries. It was amaaaaazing! I slathered mine in extra ketchup and garlic sauce.

If you're not a fan of the kebab style meat, Voner also offer burgers and nuggets. I hear they often have doughnuts and brownies too but we didn't see any there on our visit. This is definitely somewhere I'll be going back to when I'm next in Berlin.

With really full bellies, we hobbled over to the nearest U-Bahn and decided to call it a day, we were still tired from the journey and wanted to get a good nights sleep so we could visit as many places as possible the next day.

Stay tuned for more!

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Vegan Visit to York

I've just come home from having the most wonderful weekend away in York. I could go on about how beautiful a place it is and all the fun that can be had but we all know what this blog is about...

In between sunny walks, vikings, castles and general mooching around shops, I've managed to cram a pretty substantial amount of food in my gob over the last few days and it's only fair that I share all of that with you. Hopefully this will be a useful resource for travelling vegans so that you can enjoy all of York without stressing about where you want to eat. Or, if you're like me and want to tour every single vegan friendly establishment in the universe, this should be of some help too.

Goji Cafe

I'd heard that Goji gets a delivery of fresh cakes on Friday afternoons, so this the first place I stopped by when I arrived on Saturday. I wish I'd taken a photo of the cake selection, because I was completely blown away by the amount of choice. There were at least 6 vegan cakes, I only spotted maybe 2 cakes that weren't suitable. The cafe was completely rammed (always a good sign), so I bought a slice of Chocolate Hazelnut Bundt, booked a table for the evening and then left to do a bit of exploring. The cake was amazing. It was a nice moist hazelnut cake with an almost gooey chocolate hazelnut centre topped with a drizzle of icing. I'm so sorry I didn't take a photo, but trust me, it was great.

I came back later that evening, hungry and eager to try the savoury meals they had to offer. Goji only has an evening restaurant on a Friday and Saturday (from 6.30pm), but I'll say now that it's worth planning a trip around eating there. Depending on how hungry you are, you can have just a main course for £12.95, a two course meal for £18.00 or all three courses for £22.50. We decided to do three courses. I had Pan Fried Gnocci with salad to start, the Goji Burger (a veggie burger topped with smoked tofu, pesto, salad and ketchup) served with roast potatoes and mayo. I finished with a Chocolate Pecan Torte (with ice cream, obviously). I don't have photos but the food was delicious. The main was perfect and the dessert was amazing too. My one complaint was that I had the vegan option of the starter. The original dish was supposed to be fried with parmesan. I expected my vegan option to be flavoured with something else (garlic butter or maybe even vegan parm) but the parmesan was just omitted and the gnocci fried in oil. It was pretty tasty but was definitely lacking extra flavour.

The meal was fairly pricey but the portions were generous and I had to do my famous 'I've eaten way too much' waddle back to the B&B afterwards. 

This didn't stop me returning the next day for a Chocolate Milkshake and a Goji Hotdog though. Both were amazing and I actually remembered to take photos that day!

Goji Hotdog

The staff here are really attentive and friendly. Especially patient during busy periods too.

Goji Milkshake

Check out their website here for opening hours and menus. A warning to head down before 12pm on a Saturday as it was heaving and a 20 minute wait for a table and probably worth booking if you want to visit the restaurant too.

El Piano

I'd heard so much about El Piano before I came to York. The restaurant has recently turned 100% vegan and it's also completely gluten free too. The prices here were a little cheaper than Goji and the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed, which suited us on Sunday as we had a lot of time to kill.

The evening we went they had a new menu, so not sure how similar it was to their usual offering. We had two starters to share, a Curried Cheese Dip with Crudities and Seacakes with a Tomato Dip. Both of these were pretty tasty but I did find the Seacakes a little too oily for my liking (I do cook everything in Fry Light, so it could just be my own preference here). Lots of great flavours though.

Main Dish at El Piano
When picking the main course there is the choice of a hot dish, a fritter and then a salad to go with it. I chose soya meatballs in tomato sauce, with croquetas (think they were balls of polenta, potato and spices) and then hummus. We ordered a bread boat to share too. I was really impressed with the mains. Amazing dishes and such huge portions, definitely great value for £9.95. The meatballs were my favourite and I was impressed with the gluten free breads too. They were fairly dense but I think that's just what to expect with gluten free bread. There was some cornbread in the bread boat that was really great too.

Unfortunately I had no room for dessert but I definitely plan to go back when I next visit York.

Attached to the restaurant is a small shop that offers El Piano cookbooks, dessert mixes, dal mixes and other bits too.

Check out the website for more information.

Retro Fondue

Jake with his Fondue
We stumbled across this place during our last walk round the City before heading home. There weren't any clear markings on the menu but we popped in out of curiosity. Clearly the vegans of York had been on the case as the management there had contacted their suppliers to see if their chocolate was vegan friendly. Turns out their dark chocolate is and so are their Churros! 

So here is the awesome Fruit and Churro Fondue we had before setting off

The online menu doesn't give a huge amount of information but the staff were really happy to answer our questions. I'm sure the dark chocolate hot chocolates could be made vegan (as I'm sure they're just melted chocolate) and then there are the fondues with churros and fruit that are suitable too. I saw pretzels and popcorns on the menu too and it's likely they're vegan too. I'd suggest just checking before ordering.

Cooplands Bakery

Before going to York it had been a long 6 years since I'd feasted on a Yum Yum. I have happy childhood memories of these delicious baked delights, they were my favourite thing and a regular treat from the supermarket when I was growing up. Imagine the pure happiness in my heart and belly when I discovered Coopland's do vegan Yum Yums. I won't tell you just how many I've bought and consumed but at 4 for £1.15, it's definitely acceptable to devour a pack in one sitting.

Candy Hero

An American candy shop in the City centre. Not usually worth going blogging about but a) prices weren't that bad and b) all vegan items were marked with a V+ on the shelf tags.

Website is here if you're interested

Alligator Wholefoods

Again, no photos but this was a lovely wholefood shop just outside of the City centre. Definitely worth stopping by if you're staying in a hotel and want some snacks to keep in your room. Reasonably priced too!

More information on the website

York Cocoa House

The queue of people waiting to get in on Saturday and dairy free items marked clearly on the menu convinced me to give this place a try when the weather took a bad turn on Sunday afternoon. The hot chocolate was nice, made of melted chocolate and a choice of soya, rice, almond milk or water. There was a choice of moderate to dark chocolate and some vegan friendly flavoured options too (peppermint, chilli and ginger). Drinks wise there was a lot of choice but pretty much no savoury or sweet items that were dairy free on the menu.

Service was ridiculously slow and there wasn't the excuse of it being busy on the Sunday either. I nearly left before my drink arrived as it took over 20 minutes to get to the table. The staff were polite about it but when you hear them chatting to each other and mucking about while your drink is sitting there going cold (it had to be redone) a polite apology doesn't quite cut it. But still, if you have the time to spare and want a decent hot chocolate, this seems to be the place to go. If you hate crowds as much as I do, avoid the busy Saturday's there.

All dairy options are marked clearly on their online menu too, see website for details.

York Alternative B&B

Finally, I wanted to finish this blog to say a little bit about the lovely B&B we stayed in over the weekend. The whole reason we came to York was because I got some vouchers for York Alternative B&B for my last birthday.

We had a really nice stay here. Our room was lovely and the owners were incredibly polite, friendly and helpful throughout our stay. The B&B is veggie and vegan friendly, so we were able to tuck into a really decent fried breakfast every morning. There were some delicious homemade jams, marmalades and muesli on offer too. There is also choice of pancakes instead of the fried breakfasts which we didn't try, but were told could be made vegan on request. Another reason to return to York in the future!

Toiletries were also vegan and not tested on animals too, which saves you having to bring along loads of stuff from home.

Definitely worth checking out if you'd like to spend some time in York. See more information on the website.

We loved our stay in York and whilst I've listed a lot of great finds on this blog, we saw so many signs outside restaurants and cafes offering vegan options. So I'm sure I've missed some hidden treasures over the weekend and plan to go back to discover more.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll Pie

I've been waiting to share a recipe with you all that is awesome enough to excuse my blogging absence. This recipe is definitely good enough to do that, but if you're still not convinced, here's one of the reasons I've not been around..

This is Aidah. I adopted her a few months back and ever since, everything has been about her. And why wouldn't it? She's adorable.

So I'm forgiven right? Anyway...

Ever wanted to make cinnamon rolls but got turned off when you realise it involves annoying things like using yeast and taking time to rise? Yeah, me too. I don't want to wait any longer than I have to before I sink my teeth into something sweet. So when I saw this recipe, I got a bit excited. This was followed by immense sadness when I realised that I had no pecans, but then I realised that I could make it even better. So I did. And here it is.

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll Pie

A few notes about this recipe.
  1. I followed the original recipe for the sweet dough and it was way too sticky. I had to add a lot of extra flour to get a decent dough. This recipe does specifically call for earth balance, so it could be that the suma soya spread I use had a higher water content or something. Anyway, I'll put in brackets how much flour I used, so if your dough is too sticky you'll know how much extra you will need.
  2. I spread the filling on pretty thick in this pie, which meant that I made the filling recipe and then half of it again to do this. This made the pie VERY sweet, I was probably just spreading it on too thick but feel free to make more if you feel you need it.
  3. I used demerara sugar because the corner shop didn't have a soft brown sugar. It was still good but kind of crunchy, so I recommend a soft brown sugar for a smoother filling.

For the dough:

  • 2 3/4 cups plain flour (I added an extra 3/4 cups at least, use the original measurements and then add any extra you need, if needed, after liquids have been added)
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 6 tbsp dairy free margarine
  • 1/ 4 cup maple syrup

For the filling:

  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp plain white flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp dairy free margarine
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp water or so
  1. First things first you want to get the dough together. Mix the vinegar and soy milk in a measuring jug and put to one side. Next put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  2. Melt the margarine in a pan before adding to the flour mixture along with the maple syrup and soy milk mixture. Mix until it's too doughy for a spoon and then use your hands to mix and knead. If the dough is still sticky add more of the flour. When you have a decent dough, knead for two minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark 6) and grease a pie dish, or a deepish cake tin.
  4. Make the filling by melting the margarine and adding it to a bowl with the flour, cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla and put to one side.
  5. Take 2/3 of the dough and roll it out to fit your dish. Place it in neatly before taking 2/3 of the filling and spreading it evenly over the dough. Scatter 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts and the chocolate chips over the filling.
  6. Roll out the rest of the dough and place this on top. Spread the rest of the filling over this layer, before scattering the 1/4 cup left of the hazelnuts on top. Finish it off by rolling up any excess dough hanging over the sides (I spread filling over this dough so it had cinnamon inside the crust).
  7. Pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Whilst the pie is cooking, mix the icing sugar and water in a bowl until you get a really thick icing. If it's too runny add more sugar, too thick, add more water. Simple
  9. Once you've removed the pie from the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes or so before using a spoon to drizzle the icing sugar on top.
  10. Serve with warm soya custard and it's even more amazing.
And that's it! No rising time, no yeast, no fiddly rolling. It's just so much better as a pie.

Apologies for not having a photo of the whole thing, I was too excited and only remembered to photograph my slice. 

I hope to be back soon, but Aidah is very good at convincing me to put cat tv on and watch it with her.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Oak Street Cafe

Being quite new to the Manchester area, I'd never heard of Oak Street Cafe until I caught a glimpse of Tea and Sympatico's review during Vegan Mofo. That quick glimpse was all I needed to peak my interest, so I was delighted when Oak Street contacted me asking if I would like to come and sample some food from their new menu. Obviously it was a no brainer.

I have to start off by saying that I had a wonderful afternoon which was down to everything being so well thought out, great company and incredible food. It was so well organised, with a few other reviewers from the Manchester area attending at the same time. Luckily for me I happened to already know a few too. It was great to meet new people as well as getting the chance to catch up with some good friends.

I don't think there was anything that could have prepared me for the amount of food that was brought to our table. It was unbelievable, everything bar one or two dishes was completely vegan, an added bonus! We started off with a tasting plate. This contained a Thai Tomato & Peanut Soup, Yam Curry, Leek Tart and a Falafel Flatbread. All of these samples were delicious. The soup was fresh and bursting with flavour, the tart was a beautiful mix of sweetness from slow cooked leeks and perfectly flaky pastry and the curry was probably one of the best curries I have ever had to pleasure to eat. It was so creamy and had a little heat but not too much thanks to the coconut. The falafel was also impressive, though I don't think I could ever have any complaints when it comes to falafel!

I thought that was going to be all we would get...but no! More dishes popped up on the table. We had Baby Aubergines topped with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds. Oh my! These were amazing! I would never have thought to add pomegranate but it was a perfect combination. I was concerned that aubergine and tahini could be a little bitter but the sweetness from the pomegranate seeds complemented it perfectly.

Next we tried Bombay Potatoes and a Rainbow Beetroot and Cho Cho Salad. The potatoes were definitely a hit for me and will be on my list the next time I go along to the cafe. The salad was also great, sweet and earthy - I couldn't get enough! Just when I thought I was ready for my afternoon nap, a lovely vegan pizza came along! A lovely edition and it was incredibly light as instead of a heavy dough, the base was on a nice crispy flatbread.

I think at this point we all needed a break from eating, so we were treated to a wine tasting (did I tell you how well organised this was?!) and a chat with the owner Karen and chef Liz. I won't say too much on the wine because I'm definitely not an expert on the subject. It was fab to experience a proper tasting though! The chat with Karen and Liz really helped me to understand what this lovely cafe wants to achieve. Karen went into detail explaining that she likes dishes to be produced from fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. Quite often she will go out shopping and pick a selection of ingredients and then bring them to Liz, who gets to play around with ideas and flavours. I loved this idea and I think this approach is what brought such exciting dishes to our table that afternoon. Karen also wants the cafe to cater to everyone, which is why there is such a large selection of vegan and gluten free dishes on the menu. This positive attitude to being inclusive to all really impressed me and will definitely be bringing me back to Oak Street Cafe.

After our wine and chat we were given even more food...CAKE! There were two vegan options that day Chocolate Amaretto and Banana Date and Walnut Loaf. I was thinking if there was one weakness at the cafe, decent vegan cakes could be it. I'm so glad I was wrong. I was so impressed, they weren't dry and horrible...they were rich, decadent and beautifully moist. I was particularly impressed by the loaf as it was made with spelt flour, something I haven't quite mastered yet. The Chocolate Amaretto was incredible, an unusual flavour as well.

I left with a full stomach, rosy cheeks and a huge smile on my face. It really was a perfect afternoon and I would like thank all at Oak Street Cafe and the brilliant company that made this happen. The one thing that really struck me about the food here was how light it was. I didn't feel like everything was coated in oil, the bread and pastry was nice and really was the perfect kind of food for an afternoon lunch. If you're around the Manchester area, this is definitely a place worth experiencing. I can't wait for the next chance I get to pop in, even if it's just for a cup of tea and slice of cake!

I would like to say an extra thank you to Caroline from Tea and Sympatico who has saved my skin with this blog post by sharing her photos with me. I wasn't so disorganised to not bother taking any, but I broke my phone shortly after and lost all of the tasty looking snaps I took. Thank you Caroline!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Ombar - Chocolate Enlightenment

One of the best things about blogging is when you check your emails and find that someone has asked you if you'd like to eat lots of chocolate...for FREE! Well...who am I to say no? So as you can imagine, I was absolutely delighted to get sent some samples from Ombar recently.

Ombar are a range of raw, dairy free chocolate bars that also happen to be free from refined sugars too. There are eight flavours:

  • Dark 72%
  • Coco Mylk
  • Coconut 60%
  • Strawberries & Cream
  • Goji Berry
  • Acai Blueberry
  • Cranberry & Mandarin
  • Lemon & Green Tea
I was lucky enough to receive all but three of the flavours to review for you all! I'll start off by saying that whilst I am a chocolate fiend, I am a little bit scared of raw chocolate. Mostly because all of my experiences of it have been terrible...until now! 

I tried the Coco Mylk first as I was really eager to see just how 'milky' this bar would be. I loved it. It was incredibly creamy, sweet and coconut is always a winner for me. The Coconut 60% also had that great flavour but obviously with a bit more richness coming from the dark chocolate.

The Strawberries & Cream was probably my favourite out of the lot. It was smooth, creamy cut with the sharp taste of the strawberry pieces hidden away inside. I didn't expect the strawberry flavour to be so strong, which was a really nice surprise.

The Goji Berry was my least favourite, but I think that's mostly down to me not particularly liking goji berries! Unlike the sweetness of the strawberries, I found the fruitiness in this bar a little too bitter for my liking. The Dark 72% was incredibly rich, decadent and a little bit earthy. If you're a dark chocolate fan, this bar will definitely be for you!

I've got to say I was a bit taken aback by Ombar, I never expected to enjoy raw chocolate as much as this and I'm really happy that I've finally found a brand that I love! I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the Coco Mylk and Strawberries & Cream!

Ombar can be found in most health food shops or you can get hold of some bars online. Check them out!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cake Liberation Front & PB Bacon Cupcakes

Last week I went to one of my favourite Vegan events in Manchester; Cake Liberation Front. For anyone who hasn't heard of it or ever been, I'll give you a brief run down...You turn up to the event with some baked goodies, get yourself a brew and then stuff your face with everything available. You also get to waddle around afterwards and get chatting to some awesome people, swap recipes and share tips. It's a great event that encourages me to indulge in two of my favourite things, eating cake and drinking tea!

There were some amazing treats on offer Pumpkin Choc Chip Muffins, Pumpkin Pecan Pie, Truffles, Mint Choc Cake and even something savoury to cleanse our sugary pallets, Black Olive Bread. There was a lot more, but I've got to be honest....I forgot to take a lot of pictures and it's all just a cakey blur. The event was hosted at V Revolution, the best place for Vegan junk food in Manc and which really does deserve a blog post of its own sometime. I promise to get on that asap.

My contribution to the event was some PB Bacon Cupcakes and despite some insane complications (discovering my muffin tin didn't fit in the oven AFTER I'd poured batter into cases, and also cooking in a gas oven for the first time ever) they actually came out really well. I topped these with this recipe for Coconut Bacon but added liquid smoke to the batter/icing along with extra salt to really give these cakes that subtle sweet and salty effect.

Liquid smoke isn't really available in the UK, but if it's totally worth ordering some online so that you can make these cakes and other awesome ribs! But moving on, I won't keep you from these any you go

Peanut Butter Bacon Cupcakes

For the sponges:

  • 200ml soya milk
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line your muffin tin with cases
  2. In a measuring jug mix together the soya milk and cider vinegar and leave to one side
  3. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, bicarb, baking powder and salt
  4. Once your soya milk has curdled, whisk in the peanut butter, vanilla, liquid smoke and oil
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed
  6. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases until they're 3/4 of the way full. Put into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Leave to cool completely before icing.
For the icing:

  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp trex vegetable fat - make sure it's at room temperature
  • 4 cups icing sugar (or so)
  • splash of soya milk
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tsp liquid smoke
  1. In a large bowl beat the peanut butter, trex and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add half the icing sugar and a splash of soya milk. Beat for a minute or so.
  3. Add the salt and liquid smoke and then the rest of the icing sugar and another splash of soya milk.
  4. Beat again for a few minutes until firm enough to pipe. If the icing is too stiff add more milk, if it's too soft then add more sugar.
To assemble:

  1. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes
  2. Top with the Coconut Bacon
  3. Bring the cakes to a Cake Liberation Front near you!
Makes 12 cupcakes

I added rough measurements for the liquid smoke because it depends entirely on you how smokey you want it to taste. Keep testing as you go along and don't be afraid to add the salt, it just makes the flavour work better.

If you're interested in going to a Cake Liberation Front but live too far away, why not think about setting one up in your area? I was trying to set one up in Croydon before I moved up North and got a lot of help and advice when I made contact through the website.