Thursday, 27 September 2012

Almost that time again...

Yep, that's right, it's almost Vegan MoFo time again!


Just in case you've never heard of Vegan MoFo it's an annual blogging event where everyone taking part tries to cook, eat, and blog about vegan food as often as possible for the month of October. The idea is to shoot for a post every weekday but for the last two years I've posted every single day, I'll foolishly be attempting to do the same again this time around!

Last year I had so much fun with MoFo, I created some elaborate lighting solutions...


...ate an amazing amount of delicious food...

 Isa's Apple Pie Pancakes. Recipe here!

...and got very overexcited about making bread!


As usual I'll be spending some of MoFo outa the country, this time around I'll be in Austin for the first three days (I'm there right now!!) so there'll be some classic blogging-from-the-road happening! I don't know why MoFo always coincides with some kinda trip outa the country for me but it's almost becoming a tradition!

I'm whipping out some new themes this year, last year I had different daily themes & it was so fun that I'll be doing that again this year...

Go Go Gadget Monday - I have so many underused gadgets, from my spiraliser to my chocolate fountain, every Monday I'll be digging them out from the back of my cupboards and making them useful!

Cookbook Challenge Tuesday - My ever popular cookbook challenge will be making a return this year but only for one day a week. I'll be picking the cookbook names out of a hat & using a random number generator to pick the page. Last year the challenge saw me eating a lot of cookies, discovering two of my now-favourite recipes in one day & getting just a little stressed out!

What I Ate Wednesday - This is kinda a free choice fun day for me, I'll probably be keeping it nice & simple with pictures of what I've been eating.

Things I Love Thursday - Product reviews, restaurant reviews, cookbook reviews.

Pie-Day Friday - Any excuse to eat pies really! I'll be whipping out my underused copy of Vegan Pie In The Sky.

Scottish Saturday - Every Saturday I'll be going back to my Scottish roots and recreating some of the dinners I remember my mum making for me when I was a kid.

Football Food Sunday - Yep, MoFo is during football season again! That's American football guys, Nick'll be watching the games on a Sunday night & I'll be making it even more fun by knocking up some ridiculous American style eats.

I'm so excited! I can't wait to get blogging! Are you taking part too? Do you have a theme? Or themes? Or are you just winging it?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Pogo Cafe.

I don't know why it took me so long to venture north, north London that is, to try Pogo Cafe but finally, last weekend, the stars aligned and me & my besties headed there for lunch.

Pogo is situated in Hackney & was surprisingly quick and easy to get to even from our start point at the opposite side of London, Brixton to be precise. 

Pogo Cafe is a volunteer run, non-hierarchical, organic, vegan cafe. I love everything about this place; as well as being an awesome cafe the space exists as a resource for groups to hold meetings and to put on benefits, talks and film screenings. They also hold a free weekly yoga class on a Saturday morning, how cool is that? The cafe has a fully stocked fridge with tasty drinks and cakes and they even have a small shop selling books, Vegusto cheeses, Speculoos spread and other tasty vegan treats.

After perusing the menu which consists of snacks, sandwiches & burgers we all ordered The Punk Burger with wedges, salad & a side of mayo.


This was such an epic meal! The wedges were perfectly fried, the salads were interesting and the burger was out of this world - one of the best I've ever had. The seeded granary bun was stuffed full of cheezly, vegi bacon, lettuce & tomato alongside the burger itself and it really was a truly standout burger. The lovely Pogo volunteers make these themselves from organic tofu, pumpkin seeds and other deliciousness and whilst I'm normally a fake meat kinda girl when it comes to burgers this one totally changed my mind. Can you tell I really loved it?! The mayo was also spectacular and both daily salads, one green, one carrot and ginger, were delicious.

This plate of food cost £5.95 and I felt that it was definitely value for money, it was the perfect size and I felt just stuffed enough not to need to eat again for a while! I also liked that you have the option to just order the burger as a snack for £3.50. Pogo Cafe, I will definitely be back!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sussex & The World Market

As it's Sunday I had planned to spend the entire day in my pyjamas watching Passport Patrol but after waking up hungry & checking Twitter I saw two tweets that made me hop up, throw on some clothes & head for the Sussex & The World Market on Hove Lawns. Firstly I heard that Terre à Terre were selling hot churros and chocolate sauce.


This sounded like the perfect breakfast for a person who was swigging wine out of the bottle on a train mere hours ago and boy was I right. I've eaten Terre à Terre's churros many times before and they're one of my favourite desserts. They made an excellent but slightly messy breakfast!

The second tweet that made me start jabbing Nick in the ribs so that he'd wake up & head outdoors with me was from local vegan cafe VBites. It included a picture of this cake.


Yeah, that's cake entirely coated in chocolate & topped with popcorn. Brilliant! I was surprised to discover that the cake inside was orange flavoured, for some reason I was expecting chocolate. It was beautifully moist & full of pieces of orange rind and I loved the fact that this was essentially a giant cake ball. Brilliant! VBites are certainly living up to the new awesome-purveyors-of-desserts reputation they created for themselves at the Moshi Moshi Vegan Maki Challenge earlier this week.

Sandwiched in-between Terre à Terre & VBites stalls were Moshi Moshi themselves with their classic £3.50 veggie sushi box.


This is always vegan & I pick one up whenever I see it, in fact Nick & I ate one on the beach together exactly a year ago. The weather wasn't as good this year but this sushi box still contains loads of my favourite vegan maki (is that right, can I use maki as the plural?!). This box could only be made better with the addition of some Inari Tofu!

Another favourite from last years market was Titbits Catering. We ate some of their sausage rolls last year & they were so good that when we spotted them again today we couldn't resist.


These all vegan caterers don't just make delicious savoury pastries though, oh no, amongst other things these talented ladies run the Gourmet Girls pop up restaurant every Friday evening at Fanny's of Hanover. Get the lowdown here!

They're also responsible for this perfectly gooey, crackle-topped, chocolate raspberry brownie.


I'll be eating this in bed whilst watching Downton Abbey later, what a perfect day!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Moshi Moshi Great Vegan Maki Challenge

On Wednesday night as part of the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival the always amazing Moshi Moshi hosted the third Great Vegan Maki Challenge. For one night only during the food fest' Moshi Moshi turns entirely vegan and chefs from some of Brighton's top restaurants compete to create the best Japanese-inspired dish.

Nick & I went last year and it was one of the best foodie nights out we've ever had so as soon as I heard it was happening again I booked a table for us and our friends Kip, The Messy Vegetarian Cook, and Paul. You can read Kip's write up of the evening right here, I haven't read it yet, I'm saving it to read over lunch if I ever finish blogging!

The contestants this year were Yumtum Sushi, CanTina Supper Club, Sabai Thai, Cashew Catering, VBites, Titbits, Indian Summer and of course Moshi Moshi themselves who had two chefs competing. It was nice to see returning competitors from last year as well as some new chefs ready to try their hand at vegan Japanese cuisine. I've eaten food by YumTum Sushi, VBites, Titbits and Moshi Moshi on numerous occasions and Cashew Catering competed last year (and were my favourite entry) so I was excited to see them appear again. Whilst I had heard of Indian Summer, Sabai Thai, and CanTina Supper club due to their localness their food was entirely new to me.

Last year the scoring was based on rating the dishes from 1 to 8 in order of preference but this year there was a fancy new system in place which was much better. This time around we were able to rate the dishes out of 10 on Presentation, Taste and Innovation meaning that the scores were more well thought out. Last year I ended up giving lower scores to beautifully presented & innovative dishes just because there were others I preferred taste wise, this seemed like a much fairer system.

The first dish out of the kitchen was this stunning Broken Hearted Maki by Donna one of Moshi Moshi's chefs.


This beautiful maki roll contains oshinko pickle, kampyo, red chilli, coriander and shiitake mushroom and was wrapped in cooked slivered beetroot. This was served with a green tabasco, sweet chilli and korean chilli paste sauce. What a delicious start to the competition! Personally I would have left the chilli out of the roll itself, I'm not the hugest chilli fan so I deferred to my dining partners opinions on this one and they (almost) all agreed that it was a little too hot. It did make two beetroot haters like beetroot though and I was amazed at how delicate and subtly earthy it was. Overall in the competition this dish came 3rd.

Second out of the kitchen, and what turned out to be my favourite savoury dish of the night, was a Shiitake Mushroom Maki. This was served with a hijiki rice cracker and a cucumber, ginger and radish salad in a green tea dressing.


This dish, made by CanTina, was really pretty. The puffed rice, sesame & nori cracker was balanced on top of the simple but flavorful shiitake mushroom maki roll. The green tea dressing on the mini radish, cucumber, ginger and black sesame salad was light and delicately flavoured, I loved it. This was absolutely my favourite savory dish of the night and I’m really looking forward to trying the CanTina Supper Club one day. It’s not a veggie supper club by any stretch of the imagination but the lovely CanTina herself is happy to cook vegan food if you let her know about it in advance.

After this dish Moshi Moshi sent out some of the vegan dishes from their menu for people to try. Last year they had their vegan dishes going around on the belt for most of the night, I think they decided to do it a little differently this time because the lure of the food on the belt probably made people too full to enjoy the last of the competition entries last year! We had fried vegetable dumplings and aubergine dengaku, two of my favourite dishes.

The third dish that arrived at our table was this traditional looking but not-so-traditional tasting maki roll made by local restaurant Indian Summer. The roll contained pilau rice and cashew and pistachio nuts roasted with Indian spices.


Whilst I found this too spicy for my delicate palate I rated it highly for innovation. I really liked how it was essentially a little nut roast all wrapped up like sushi, I thought that it was an inspired fusion of Japanese and Indian cuisine. It was one of my dining companions favourite savoury dish of the night.

The next plate that headed towards us on the belt was this beautiful Chestnut Tarragon Roll made by Yumtum Sushi.


As soon as I saw this I knew that it was Yumtum's creation. I often grab a sushi box from the market on a Wednesday and it looked a little like their Red maki roll but taken to a whole new level! The chestnut tarragon inside out roll was topped with fennel, sweet white wine caviar and fennel flowers and was served with a garlic teriyaki sauce and a cashew nut lattice. I have to say that this wasn't one of my favourites, I felt like there was a little too much going on but I did like a lot of the individual parts. The roll itself was supremely tasty and the cashew lattice was fantastic. I really enjoyed the sweet white wine caviar and thought that it was an exciting and innovative technique, next year I'd like to see them scale it down a bit so that there aren't so many flavours competing with each other.

This next dish looked so mind blowingly awesome that the Ooh's and Aah's of fellow diners preceded it's arrival at our table. This is VBites stunning Green Tea & Pandan Ice Cream creation.


The ice cream was encased in a brilliantly engineered chocolate tear drop, topped with a spinach & chocolate swirl AND a chocolate truffle and then all of this was served alongside a delicious raspberry & ginger coulis. The green tea & pandan ice cream was flavoured with lemon & lime zest & honestly it would have been rather impressive on its own! The chocolate tear drop, designed to break into pieces with every mouthful, added a certain level of sophistication to the dish and the chocolate truffle tasted like a chocolate & almond cake ball, definitely something I would happily pop into my mouth again and again! This dish really did taste as good as it looked and after speaking to the chef who created it we were even more amazed at the skill that went into it, both the tear drop & chocolate swirl involved techniques I'd never even considered possible & if VBites made food like this in their cafe I would happily make the trip out there regularly.

Dish number six was made by my favourite entrant from last year, Cashew Catering. This Tempeh Stuffed Aubergine Maki was rolled with chilli bean puree and served with both horseradish & ginger paste and raspberry & ume sauce


I loved that they were really stretching the definition of the word maki with their entry and my only complaint about it is that it was huge, far too big to be eaten with chopsticks! I loved that they used tempeh, it's not something I see often on British restaurant menus which is a shame because it's so flavourful. I'm also a huge aubergine fan so that was another very welcome addition to the evening. I'm not the hugest horseradish lover so I would have liked less of that and more raspberry & ume sauce but this would have upset the lovely Messy Vegetarian Cook as she loves horseradish & may have actually licked the plate at the end! Classy! Overall this dish came a very well deserved second.

As we were coming towards the end of the evening I was happy to see another small dish heading towards us on the conveyor belt. This beautiful Flower Maki was created by another of Moshi Moshi's own chefs, Darek, and was referred to by most of our table as Trivial Pursuit sushi! If you've never seen the Trivial Pursuit logo it looks like this!


This roll contained two of my favourite things, kampyo & mizuna alongside carrot, oshinko pickle, red onion & pepper. The sauce was a spicy sour sauce made with Korean chili paste & lime. It was almost too pretty to eat but I'm glad I did because of course it was delicious.

The sheer size of this next dish was frankly a little terrifying after seven courses but we also felt that Sabai Thai's Tofu Sabai Wrap wasn't particularly Japan-inspired.


This Vietnamese style summer roll was filled with the classic summer roll ingredients; carrot, celery, cucumber, coriander, mint & tofu and was topped with peanut sauce, sesame seeds & an incredibly spicy sweet chilli sauce. If I'm totally honest not a lot of our plates got eaten and we wished we'd only grabbed two to share rather than attempting to tackle one each.

Last but by no means least Titbits hot plate of deep fried goodness came out of the kitchen.


Their Banana & Peanut Butter Dessert Gyoza was an inspired idea and the accompanying chocolate sauce and plum wine syrup complimented the dumplings perfectly. I have to hold my hands up & say that I'm not the hugest fan of banana so I probably would have upped the peanut butter content in these a little. The pastry was amazingly crisp and the dusting of powdered sugar added more than just decoration to the dish. This was a great end to a fantastic evening & I'm excited that Titbits will be at the Hove Lawns market this weekend, may the food festival fun continue!

This was yet another fantastic evening at Moshi Moshi, it's no secret that this is my favourite restaurant in Brighton and it's special events like this as well as their commitment to offering great vegan food that makes me love them so much. Roll on next year...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Barcelona adventures: Part 1

Way back at the beginning of the year my friends Melanie, Carmen & I decided that it'd been way too long since we'd seen each other & we decided to do something about it. After much discussion via e-mail we decided on Barcelona in April. Not too cold even in spring, plenty to do & loads of vegan food. Could it be the perfect destination? With I start like this I think so...


As soon as we'd dropped our stuff off at the slightly dodgy rented apartment we headed around the corner and across the street to Gopal. I'd heard of Gopal and seen pictures of their food on other blogs but nothing had really prepared me for this awesomeness! The chocolate doughnut is genuinely one of the best things I've ever eaten, it was perfect, the doughnut was cakey, the chocolate all encompassing, and the taste? Spot on.

We ordered a nacho plate to share which came with plenty of melted Cheezly...


...and I ordered a hot Ham & Cheese sandwich. It really was pretty perfect, the bread was delicious and the fillings were plentiful. I can't wait to take Nick here one day too because he would be very impressed with this bap's lack of salad!


This would definitely not be our last visit to Gopal!

The next day before heading out for some sightseeing we grabbed some pastries made by Lujuria Vegana for breakfast.


We were super lucky with the location of our apartment, we knew it was close to Drassanes metro stop and to La Rambla but we hadn't realised that there was a bakery at the end of our street selling vegan treats. Pasteleria La Estrella may look like a normal vegan un-friendly bakery at first glance but the window on the right displays the Lujuria Vegana sign and many vegan treats await inside. Contrary to what Happy Cow has listed this is not an entirely vegan bakery but Pasteleria La Estrella have one cabinet and one fridge full of Lujuria Vegana products. Again, we'd be back, this was a great pastry!


After a trip to Park Güell and many hours spent wondering the streets of the city it was time for food and beer and what better place to get that than Cat Bar!


Cat Bar is an entirely vegan Bar/Restaurant run by a rad British dude who clearly loves cats! Cat Bar has an impressive selection of vegan beers from around the world but I went for the one that came with the set menu. I'm no beer connoisseur!


The menu of the day was a super reasonable €9.50 and came with the beer, a basket of bread...


...and your choice of starter, main, and dessert. There were four options to pick from to start including two soups, two salads or hummus. After the carb fest at Gopal the night before I decided to go for the Mixed Salad so that I could cram in some veg!


This was a simple, tasty, and beautifully dressed salad and I loved the black & white sesame seeds. The mains that day were either Goulash & Dumplings or a Seitan Pesto Moussaka. We all chose the Moussaka!


We definitely made an excellent choice, this was filling without being heavy and the flavours in the dish all went perfectly together. I was fairly dubious about warm lettuce too but this dish won me around!

For dessert I got a piece of this perfectly light, moist, and not too sweet chocolate cake.


It was the perfect end to the meal & I really wish we'd had time to go back to eat another of Cat Bar's amazing daily menu's. Trust me though when I say, I will be back! Barcelona really isn't that far!

I was very excited when I read about Gelaati on Happy Cow. An ice cream parlour with not only vegan sorbet but rice and soya based ice creams too, brilliant. They have one location and it's right in the centre of Barri Gòtic, near the cathedral. I love being able to have an ice cream on holiday, or any time really, and their clear signage made me content that I was in the right place without having to ask too many questions!

On the day of our visit they had Strawberry, Mango, Mojito, Lemon, Banana & Avocado sorbets.
                                 


They also has two rice based ice creams and one soya based option.


I have to be honest and say that I have no idea what the ones on the left or right of that picture were, I feel like the soya option was sesame but I can't be sure. My Spanish is terrible and I'd seen chocolate so I knew that it didn't really matter, I'd already made up my mind! I went for Chocolate & Mojito.


Technically I'm not sure these two options should go together but it worked for me! Melanie went for Chocolate & Banana, which was a winning combination and when we visited again I went with Chocolate & Strawberry which was wonderful.

For out next eating adventure we picked Juicy Jones. Juicy Jones have two locations in Barcelona, they're entirely vegan and they serve up tasty healthy fare alongside a huge range of juices .


I love the way the juice menu's laid out and I picked an Orange, Carrot & Grapefruit juice minus the Cinnamon.


It was a great juice, I'm pretty terrible at finishing drinks and with this one I wished that I'd ordered the large.

As my wisdom tooth was being a complete cretin & making it hard for me to eat I decided to start with something soft & ordered the hummus.


The bread that came to the table went with this perfectly and it was nice and soft for my poor tooth. The only thing I would do differently is to have a few more carrot slivers accompanying the hummus.

Next I went for the Soba Salad.


This was perfect, soba heaped on top of crunchy leaves topped with tofu, avocado, carrot, and bean sprouts, accompanied by a delicious dressing. I would happily eat this salad over and over again, in fact I should really recreate it at home soon given that it contains so many of my favourite things.

Dessert was a little cake with chocolate sauce.


As with the dessert at Cat Bar it was a nice light end to the meal, I often find myself wanting something sweet at the end of dinner, or lunch, but can't handle the idea of a huge dessert so these little cakes are perfect. Again, we enjoyed Juicy Jones so much that we went back more than once but more on that next time...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Stockholm

For my birthday this year Nick and I headed to Sweden for Millencolin Fest, a little punk festival put on by Millencolin to celebrate their 20 year band-a-versary. For those of you thinking "Birthday? Wasn't your birthday in June Jojo?" Erm, yes, I'm a little behind, let's move on...

The festival was in the band's hometown, Örebro. They headlined both nights & it was amazing to see in my birthday dancing around to one of my favourite songs. The festival campsite was set up just down the road from the festival site and we stayed in a super cute little cabin. The campsite also had a water park so we spent plenty of time playing on the slides and in the wave pool, I definitely think more festivals should be set up like this! The festival wasn't great food wise, onsite this blue candy floss was the only vegan thing I spotted, but hey, I love candy floss!


Luckily there was also a supermarket between the campsite and the festival ground and they didn't do anything silly like ban you from bringing food into the venue so don't worry, we didn't starve! We ate plenty of fruit, bread, crisps and Swedish Glace ice cream cones which are called Tofu Line in Sweden. Yum!

After the festival we spent a few days in Stockholm. We'd wanted to visit for ages and it would have been rude to just fly in and out of the airport without spending any time there!

As soon as we got off the train from Örebro we dropped our bags off at the hotel and headed to Herman's Tradgardcafe to find lunch.

Herman's is a vegetarian buffet style restaurant with loads of outdoor seating and super amazing views of the old town across the water. The woman behind the counter was super helpful and she happily gave us a guided tour of the vegan options, everything was vegan except for one hot and two cold dishes that contained cheese. 


As you can see we loaded up our plates with a bit of everything! My favourite parts of the meal were the tofu and herb spread which I smeared all over some delicious homemade bread, the potato salad, wedges, pasta salad with olives, and the carrot and raisin salad. As is traditional with buffets I accidentally picked one thing that was far too spicy for me but it was worth a try and I got Nick to eat it so that it didn't go to waste!

We sat outside and enjoyed the view...


...and as it was my birthday I wasn't going to skip dessert even after that humungous plate of food. I went to see if anything was vegan and as is always ideal in this situation it turned out that everything on the dessert table was vegan! I went for a piece of the most decadent looking chocolatey thing there.


This chocolate torte came with homemade whipped rice cream, I'd normally turn down any kind of cream with dessert, I just find cream icky, but I said yes this time because we were sharing and Nick wouldn't have been impressed if I'd said no! He convinced me to try it and I was pleasently surprised, it was really light and airy and not cloyingly sweet. I'd definitely say yes to whipped rice cream again.

We loved Herman's so much that we went back there on our last day. We were in a bit of a rush to get to the airport so I didn't take any pictures but the buffet was super vegan friendly again and it was a great last meal.

One place I really wanted to visit whilst in Stockholm was Kafé 44. Kafé 44 is a cafe, anarchist bookstore and music venue run by three different not for profit groups.


This place reminded me of The Cowley Club in Brighton. We shared a super cheap slice of delicious chocolate torte...


...and a Cuba Cola. I love it when places sell fun Colas like this.


We'll definitely head back to Kafé 44 next time we're in Stockholm. It was a really relaxed atmosphere and it was fun to see different groups meeting up there to work on projects.

We ate dinner at Kokyo twice during our trip. Kokyo aren't a veggie restaurant but they do have a separate vegan menu. We were super excited to find out that they even have an English menu, we weren't expecting that and we'd written down a few Swedish words to help us choose what to eat.



Whilst the restaurant advertises itself as a Japanese restaurant a lot of the menu seemed Chinese and there are a few reviews on Happy Cow that confirm that this is more of a Japanese/Chinese fusion restaurant.

On our first visit I ordered the Vegetarian Chef Special which came with a small plate of sushi to start.


We both love sushi & I was very pleased to see both Inari tofu and avocado on the plate. The main with the special is the Kokyo Wok.


As you can see this is a simple vegetable stir fry with tofu and seitan pieces. I have to say that this was nothing special, I wouldn't order it again and I'm surprised that this is the chefs special as everything else we tried had way more flavour.

Nick chose the Gongbao Surou. Soya protein, carrot & roasted peanut in an aromatic sauce with a side of steamed rice.


We loved both the tofu and the sauce but Nick wasn't impressed that they had replaced the carrots with two of his most hated veggies, red pepper and courgette!

We decided to go back a second time because we enjoyed the Gongbao Surou despite the change of veg, we loved the sushi, and we wanted to try a couple of the other dishes on the menu.

Of course to start we ordered more sushi. I love that this place makes their own tofu and the avocado was nice & ripe.


We also got some Dim Sum, fried dumplings filled with soya meat, shiitake mushrooms & vegetables.


We loved these, perfectly fried and stuffed full of yumminess.

Of course I forgot to take a photograph of the rest of the meal but we ordered the Braised Vegetarian Balls to share and it was our favourite main out of the three we tried. There were plenty of meaty balls (hehe!) and the brown gravy-esque sauce was delicious. It was pretty huge too, which is always a win in my book, although we were a little sad that we didn't have any room for more dumplings!

Our other favourite place in Stockholm was Naturbageriet on Gamla Stan. It was a short walk from the Gamla Stan tube stop and in an area we really wanted to explore. We'd just planned to grab a quick breakfast from there but there were so many great vegan options that we took stuff to go for lunch too.

For breakfast we had a Kanelsnurra.


 This delicious sweet pastry was perfect and we took two more to eat on the plane.


For lunch we took one of these Spinach & Tofu pasties...


...and a veggie sandwich stuffed full of avocado, sprouts & tomatoes in a delicious homemade roll.

We really loved Stockholm, well, Sweden in general really! We can't wait to go back one day. We thought the countryside was really beautiful and the city was remarkably chilled, peaceful & easy to get around. Perfect.