Wednesday 30 July 2014

Chocaffinitea, Brighton.

Whilst I'm not a coffee person I totally get the appeal of having somewhere to sit and chat away the hours over a hot drink with a friend or lover so I was overjoyed when I heard that Chocaffinitea had opened it's doors just around the corner from me. Situated on Gloucester Road just five minutes from the station and right in-between Kensington Gardens and Sydney Street this is a convenient spot for just about everyone.

Chocaffinitea is a health focussed, raw leaning kinda place who shine a spotlight on ethically sourced artisanal products. It's a really cute space that is bigger inside than first impressions would suggest and I love both the perfect people watching window table and the cosier area at the back of the cafe.

My main reason for deciding to pay Chocaffinitea a visit was that I'd heard a rumour that they had vegan hot chocolate on the stove, ready to go, all the time. This rumour was thankfully true and you can get a small shot sized cup of single origin hot chocolate for £1.25 or a proper sized mug for £2.50. 

Of course I went for the mug and boy was I glad I did. This smooth, rich, hot chocolate was wonderful and I can see myself returning for many more in the winter months. On my first visit I also tried a slice of raw peanut butter chocolate slice and my friend Justine had a slice of raw carrot cake. 

Whilst I enjoyed the chocolate and peanut butter slice it wasn't my dream cake, a little too healthy and a little too nutty. If I'm going raw I prefer a creamy chocolate cheesecake or a rich chocolate tart but this is filling a hole in the Brighton vegan cake market that has been crying out for some attention. Chocaffinitea also make raw vegan chocolates making this the perfect date spot for the chocolate lover in your life. I would love it if they'd balance these healthier options with something a little more decadent, like a vegan version of their chocolate caramel brownies, but I know my friend appreciated the gluten free-ness of these un-baked goods. My only other peeve was the "guilt fee" sign next to the raw cakes, I really think that guilt-free should be taken away from food discussions all together - it's  pretty unhealthy mindset and nobody should be feeling guilty for eating a gluten / sugar / fat filled treat.

One other cool thing about Chocaffinitea is that they're also a chocolate shop.

Almost everything on the shelves was vegan and the staff are super knowledgeable if you're unsure or have questions about where the bars are made. Options ranged from the pricier handmade raw chocolate from Forever Cacao (£5.50 40g) to beautiful looking organic bars from The Grenada Chocolate Company (£3.50 85g).

I've already been back once and I'll definitely be popping back for another hot chocolate fix as soon as the weather cools off. Chocaffinitea also sell pour over coffee and tea if you're that way inclined.

Thursday 24 July 2014

WaiKikaMooKau Cafe.

If you follow me on social media I'm sure you've heard of WaiKikaMooKau Cafe. It's situated right in the centre of the North Laine area and whilst I pop by to deliver my cupcakes every Friday I hardly ever have the time to stop by and eat. Thankfully I found time to grab a late lunch with a friend there recently, we both ordered burgers because they're my favourite menu item.

Homemade, soy based, and made with plenty of sweet potato WaiKikaMookau's burgers are great. The bun it's served on is soft, seeded and wholewheaty and it comes with salad and a side of fries upon request.

Obviously we added the salad and fries but the burger would be a good take out option just on it's own. I love the fun salads they make to, they're often packed with herbs alongside baby leaves, courgette, carrot and cucumber.

We weren't going to stop there though because WaiKikaMooKau has an amazing array of vegan cakes to choose from these days. We were very tempted by this Beetroot and Avocado cake.

My Speculoos cupcakes were there looking all adorable but obviously I wasn't going to buy a cake that I'd made! Who does that?!

Eventually we settled on a slice of freshly baked lemon cake which was divine.

The frosting was almost buttery in taste and texture and we adored the lemon curd spread generously between the layers of sponge cake. They make a raspberry version of this cake too and I'll definitely be trying that next time.

WaiKikaMooKau are currently looking into vegan cheese options so you can expect to see me shoving a cheeseburger into my face on Instagram sometime soon!

Monday 21 July 2014

Vegan Finger Foods Review & Giveaway

Vegan Finger Foods by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes is the third book by this experienced cookbook writing duo, their other co-writes include Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day which I adore, my buddy Sal made the chicken seitan last time I went to her house and I'd go as far as to say that it's a game changer, and Whole Grain Vegan Baking which I don't have yet.

Vegan Finger Foods is full of recipes that are perfect for entertaining, snacking on, sharing with friends or scaling up to make a full meal.

The first recipe that caught my eye was the Corn Fritters with Tomato-Thyme Gravy. Whilst the gravy sounded great I preferred the sound of their other serving suggestion, spiked vegan mayo.

I didn't have straight up hot sauce so I used a mild chilli and garlic sauce which was perfect. These really lived up to the Quick and Easy logo at the top of the page, I was amazed at how swiftly they came together and they were super flavourful thanks to the combo of chives, cumin, thyme and paprika. Nick and I polished off the whole lot for lunch one day, we love corn and we love frying things so this was the perfect recipe to start off with. We'll be making these again.

Next up, the Green Snackers. This recipe wasn't quite as easy as the previous one but aside from some fresh spinach it uses pantry staples so I couldn't resist. Here they are pre and post oven.

I served them alongside one of my favourite dips, the Crock Cheez from The Uncheese Cookbook.

I may have rolled the crackers a little thin and therefor overcooked them a touch but they were nicley crispy and I enjoyed the flavour the wholewheat flour imparted. I would make them again but I did have to add a little under a 1/4 cup of extra flour to form a dough that would roll out so keep that in mind if it's getting a little sticky!

Lastly I made the Spinach Swirls, these are like little savoury cinnamon rolls and they were super good. I made the Marinara Sauce from Appetite for Reduction to accompany them which was a good call.

I've actually never worked with a rolled and sliced dough before but the instructions were easy to follow. I did wonder if UK wholewheat flour is a little different from the kind found in the US as these turned out looking a lot more wholewheaty than those in the picture in the book but that didn't affect my enjoyment of them. These were wonderful dipped in the marinara and if I was holding a fancy party with finger foods these would definitely be on the to-make list.

There are plenty of other eye catching recipes in this fun new cookbook and the Fig and Nut Canapes, Pad Thai Summer Rolls and Chocolate Stout Truffles are all on my to-make list.

Would you like to win a copy of Vegan Finger Foods? Well it's your lucky day! I'm giving away two copies and all you need to do to enter is leave a comment below telling me what your favourite finger food is. Make sure you leave me some way to contact you if you win, e-mail, Twitter or your blog works, and the competition closes at midnight on Sunday 27th July. This giveaway is UK only, sorry far away friends.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Dee's Wholefoods and 10 Acre Crisps Reviews.

When I was at VDelicious and The Allergy and Free From show a couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be given some products for free for review purposes. Exciting! I often say no to free promotional goodies but both Dee's and Ten Acre are brands that I'd not only heard of but was genuinely excited about trying.

Dee's Wholefoods gave me packs of their Omega Burgers, Roast Garlic and Mushroom Sausages and Traditional Sausages to try.

Unfortunately when I went to try the Garlic and Mushroom Sausages the package had gotten all puffed like a little balloon meaning that they were no longer safe to eat. This was a full week before the eat by date and the company generously offered to refund my money if I bought another product from Waitrose. As Waitrose don't stock this product I turned down the offer but it was much appreciated. 

Anyway, onto the reviews. The traditional sausages were the first thing Nick and I tried. We were super impressed at how meaty they looked, the casing was even similar to the kind found on a meaty sausage.

We fried ours in a non-stick pan in just one tsp of oil as directed on the package. You have to let these sit and get properly browned before turning them over otherwise they'll stick. Patience prevailed and these came out wonderfully. We couldn't think of a better way to eat a traditional sausage than as part of a full English breakfast, served at dinner time because that's how we roll.

The sausages were incredibly flavourful, you can tell that they're packed with spices and we enjoyed the texture too. We served them alongside our favourite seeded loaf from the Infinity Foods bakery, fried mushrooms (not for Nick!) and a new brand of baked beans called Hodmedod's. We were a little unsure about the new beans upon opening the can due to the watery sauce but they were fantastic. I'm trying to break my Heinz addiction and I think it's working.

Next we tried the Omega Burgers which we grilled and served alongside a couple of salads from Terry's latest cookbook, Salad Samurai.

Unfortunately whilst we enjoyed the burgers texturally the flavours just didn't stand up next to the bold flavours of the salads. We were surprised by their blandness especially given how flavourful the sausages were. Maybe they'd have been better stuffed into a pitta full of hummus and salad leaves or something but I have to be honest and say that I wouldn't buy these. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the Organic Mega Burgers and I'll buy the Traditional Sausages again for sure, both are sold in the Brighton branch of Waitrose. Salad wise I made the Sea Chickpea Salad and the Basil "egg" Avocado from the Ni├žoise Bento Box and they were both total winners, the basil egg was so wonderful that I ate both portions immediately and I've already made the sea chickpeas again after scoffing the first lot in a day and a half.

I was very excited when I stumbled across this next stall, I'd heard so much about Ten Acre and their innovative vegan Cheese and Onion crisps. They handed over a whole grab bag full of goodies and it didn't take me tong to polish off the lot. Of course I started with the famous The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion.

Unsurprisingly they were fantastic, the buzz about these is for good reason! They're just like the cheese and onion we all knew and loved back in our cheese eating days but minus the cruelty. It's so nice to have this flavour back in my life again. 

The next pack I dived into was When Hickory Got BBQ'd, these were delicious but due to the cayenne my mouth was a little on the hot side by the end of the packet. Anyone with a regular tolerance for spice will adore these though, such a fun flavour!

How Chicken Soup Saved the Day was next up to bat and yet again Ten Acre knocked it outa the park serving up another delicious animal friendly twist on a classic flavour. They're also ridiculously good dipped in hummus, just sayin'! These are up there in my top three for sure.

Ten Acre also make the classics. The Secret of Mr Salt, pictured above, and The Amazing Adventures of Salt and Vinegar..

Ready Salted has always been a firm favourite of mine when it comes to potato chips and not just because a vegan version is almost always easy to find. Ten Acre's are neither greasy nor overly salty and it's safe to say I loved them. Salt and Vinegar is a flavour I either love or hate, I think this depends very much on the balance of salt to vinegar and Ten Acre have got it spot on in my opinion.

This next pack deserves a second pic, The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends could be accurately renamed The Day Jojo Fell in Love With a Crisp, Ran Away Together and Lived Happily Ever After In A Van By the River.

These crisps mimic one of my favourite Chinese dishes and just in case you haven't got the picture already, I love them.

Ten Acre also make When the Chilli Got Sweet and When Bombay Got Spicy but I try to be a little sensible about risking a chilli allergy flare up and didn't take samples of these flavours.

Brightonians will be pleased to hear that these are on the shelves in Infinity Foods right now. It's pretty great to be able to by crisps from one of my new favourite small independent companies from my favourite local co-op.

Monday 14 July 2014

Veg Fest London Announcement and Ticket Giveaway.

When one giveaway closes another begins, or at least that's how it seems to be going on my blog right now! I'll get to that part in a minute though because I want to tell you why I'm getting really excited about London Veg Fest right now. There are two reasons... 

One, I missed it last year! I got back from California a couple of days after Veg Fest weekend, worst planning ever, but I just had to take advantage of a cheap flight deal! I'm excited about Considerit Chocolate, Lost and Found Caramels and Kizzy's Cookies, catering from Rupert's Street and Happy Maki and hitting up the sample tables of brands like Sheese, Vegusto and VBites. Yup, that all counts as one reason - food!

Two is that I'm going to be speaking there this year! At 4pm on Saturday in the Workshops Room I'm going to be discussing all things vegan travel related in A Vegan Abroad; a talk on everything from how to avoid arriving at your destination starving, hangry and light headed to tips on how to seek out the vegan specialities in the countries you're planning to visit. 

Myself and my friends at The Vegan Society will be opening up the floor for a Q&A session at the end, partly because I want to be as helpful as possible by answering your questions, and partly because I love to chat about travel! I'd love to hear about your favourite places to travel as a vegan too. I am beyond excited about this and I can't wait for September! It's going to be so fun!

To celebrate I'm giving away one pair of weekend tickets to the fest'. To enter you just need to leave a comment below telling me which product, company or talk you're most excited about checking out at Veg Fest (saying mine does not increase your chances of winning!). Please leave me some way to contact you, your blog, e-mail address or Twitter account, and make sure that you're free to attend Veg Fest on the weekend of the 27th and 28th of September. Sharing this competition on social media is not necessary but it would be nice of you if you're into that sort of thing! The competition closes at midnight on Monday July 21st.

Friday 11 July 2014

Bellaverde, Puerto Pollensa.

As I mentioned in my blog post about Mallorca last week Nick and I were trying to be as frugal as possible on this trip, we have a lot of travel plans coming up in the next year so we definitely need to focus on reigning in our spending both at home and abroad. This definitely meant less eating out than usual but we couldn't stay in Puerto Pollensa without visiting one of the restaurants we'd enjoyed on our last trip, Bellaverde.

Bellaverde is situated in a side street just off of the main seafront drag and behind the gates lies the most beautiful garden I've ever had the pleasure of dining in. It's shaded by hundred year old fig trees and full of some of the most amazingly bright flowers I've ever seen. It's the perfect spot to sit, relax and enjoy a meal

We started dinner with a jug of freshly made lemonade and some mineral water because we're wild and crazy like that.

We also couldn't say no to the offer of bread and olives and as she poured the olive oil the owner told us about her friend who makes the it from trees that are at least one hundred years old.

As soon as we tasted the oil we could tell that it was something special. It was zesty and fruity and it made us want to spend all of our money on fancy oil when we got home.

The last time we visited Bellaverde was back in 2011 and whilst we did eat a delicious vegan meal then I remember having to use my terrible Spanish to explain what we would and wouldn't eat and them modifying a couple of dishes on the menu for us as nothing was vegan as written. This meant that this time around when we saw the menu and noticed that there were not only plenty of vegan options clearly marked but some raw vegan dishes too we were ecstatic. It's so awesome to see a restaurant moving with the times even in a small town on a small island. I think a lot of restaurants around the world could take some tips from these guys!

After much discussion and deliberation I ordered the Fake Plate which was essentially a gyro plate with peppery seitan, tzatziki, salad and perfectly cooked french fries. It was fantastic.

Nick went for the Vegetarian Hamburger which also came with fries and the burger itself was full of veggies and topped with an amazing raspberry ketchup which Nick said elevated this burger to the next level.

Obviously we weren't going to skip dessert once we'd seen that over half of that menu was vegan too, dishes ranged from Panna Cotta to Elderflower Sorbet with Hibiscus Gazpacho. I couldn't resist the Chocolate Cake with Rhubarb Puree.

I apologise for the terrible photo, my phone went a little strange in the heat (it's like me!) and every picture I took that night had a strange blue tinged blur to it, if you can believe it these have actually been fixed up in iPhoto already! Anyway, you get the idea. Delicious, rich, moist chocolate cake not only served with rhubarb puree but also with a thick dark chocolate sauce and topped off with pieces of fresh orange. Delightful.

Nick ordered the gingerbread mousse with cherry coulis.

I have to admit to not being a huge ginger fan so this one wasn't for me but the texture was spot on and I enjoyed the tangy berry coulis.

After such an amazing meal on our last night we decided that we couldn't bear to go home not knowing when we'd get to enjoy Bellaverde's food again. Basically both the food and the setting combined to make us break into our savings to enjoy one more meal on our last day. As it was super warm again, even in the shade, I decided to go for cooling foods and started with the Green Gazpacho. Nick went for the delicious veggie burger and chips he'd eaten the previous evening and as you can see the plate was overflowing with fries.

The green gazpacho was beautifully thick and garlicy and I detected coriander which I love. I followed my refreshing soup with the raw Vegetable Lasagne with Spinach Cream which was gorgeous but hard to photograph despite me carrying it around the place looking for the perfect lighting to highlight it's beauty!

The spinach cream was like a pesto in taste and texture and the lasagne itself was made up of slices of courgette, mushroom and tomato. I can honestly say that this is the first time I've ever enjoyed raw mushroom, the key seems to be super thin slices. I'm going to give mushies sliced like that another whirl at home soon.

Of course I wasn't going to skip dessert, if we're eating out we're doing it right and the Carrot Cake sounded too good to pass up.

The cake was succulent and covered with what appeared to be fruity yoghurt with pieces of peach inside. However strange that sounds it totally worked, it wasn't too sweet meaning that it complimented the flavours of the cake perfectly. I adored it.

This meal was such a wonderful end to our trip and I would recommend both Puerto Pollensa and Bellaverde to anyone considering a trip to Mallorca. The beaches in the area are gorgeous and as you've seen from this post and my previous one your stomach will be well taken care of.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Self Catering in Mallorca.

Nick and just I spent 6 nights in Mallorca and we had an amazing trip. We stayed in Puerto Pollensa, a small town on the coast in the north of the island that we discovered on our last trip to the balearics in 2011. We loved it so much that we've been aching to go back ever since. 

I love to self cater when I'm travelling, when you're in a major city sure you want to eat out all the time but when travelling for longer periods, on the cheap or to not-so-veg-friendly spots self catering wins for me. As soon as we picked up our hire car at the airport we headed for Carrefour, one of Spain's largest supermarket chains, to stock up on food for the week. First things first, fresh produce. I couldn't resist this 2kg box of cherries for just €4.40, best thing? Nick does't even like cherries so I got to eat them all myself!

On our last visit I remember being so impressed with how many exciting seitan and tofu products were sold in Carrefour, there were meatballs, flavourd tofu's, tofu fillets and many types of burgers to choose from. This time there was only one kind of seitan, a couple of burgers and some plain tofu. Slightly disappointing but no big deal, at least there was some seitan! We also grabbed some Artura margarine as we weren't sure where else we'd find a dairy free option.

We bought loads of these seitan steaks and Nick ate them for almost every meal, he's seitan obsessed! On our first night we ate dinner on the roof terrace. We made simple salads, fried the seitan in plenty of garlic oil and served it alongside delicious freshly baked bread. My salad's the one with the black olives and tomatoes!

We arrived too late to hit the beach but there was time to explore the waterfront and the pine walk before heading to bed. I love being close to the sea and the pine walk winds right along the coast.

We met a cat on our walk, s/he was super friendly. I love to stop and pet kitties when I'm travelling or, y'know, just walking around my neighbourhood in Brighton.

The next day we hit the beach around lunchtime and spent all day lying on the sand reading. It was bliss. We were starving by the time we got back to the apartment so I cooked us huge plates of pasta with butter beans, olives and marinara sauce, store-bought of course, there's no time for homemade marinara when you're travelling! We topped it off with the Vegusto cheese I'd brought from home.

The next day we went to the beach again (if you pay attention you'll being to see a pattern emerging here), rented a pedalo, and got out onto the water. Now until recently I would have been far too scared to get off of that boat, I was always happy to swim in the sea and peddling the little boat would have been a-ok but getting from the boat into the water? Nuh-uh, that would have meant water splashing onto my face which would have given me a panic attack and I'd have probably drowned. It wouldn't have been fun! Recently I had a one to one lesson followed by a full days swimming class with these people who help you cure your fear of the water, I don't know how it's possible but the teacher had me dunking my face underwater within the first 20 minutes of my first lesson. It was amazing, up until then I didn't even let water from the shower touch my face!

I'm still not 100% confident in the water, the idea of learning to dive is stressing me out a little right now and if you showed me to a diving board I might back away, but I'm a work in progress. I totally went down this slide right into the sea and you know what? It was so fun I did it twice!

We decided getting out of the mid day sun would be sensible next move, I turn pink pretty fast despite continuous applications of factor 30+, so we popped back to our super central apartment for lunch. Salad, an open topped seitan sandwich, and a bowl of gazpacho.

I freaking love gazpacho, I should really learn to make it myself. This one was very garlicky and super fresh.

After more afternoon beach time at one of our favourite spots, Formentor Beach, we headed home to shower off the sand and to relax on the balcony with our books and some fun drinks, beer for me, iced tea for Nick. Formentor beach has gotten a lot more popular since we were last there in 2011 and we liked it best in the afternoon, around 4 o'clock, when the majority of the crowds had gone home. Parking seemed to be free then too which was a nice bonus!

We threw together another easy dinner that night. Nick made himself pasta with tomato sauce and ate a hunk of bread on the side and I threw together a salad with pasta, cubed garlicy tofu, chickpeas, butter beans, black olives, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and a little more of that Vegusto grated on top.

It was delicious, I love cheese in or on salads! The balcony turned out to be a wonderful place to eat  because it has a view of the town square, as there was a saints day coming up there was a little stage set up there and people were taking a group zumba class as part of the festivities. Fun to watch but I have no idea how people do outdoor exercise when it's so hot, I found lying on the beach challenging somedays and was glad of our apartments air conditioning.

Puerto Pollensa has definitely become more vegan friendly since our last visit and we were excited to stumble upon Bio Botiga during one of our adventures. They're an organic wine shop and grocery store chock full of products from pasta and sauces to seitan fillets, tofu and vegan margarine. If we'd known this store was here I'd say that we could have probably skipped the Carrefour trip and just bought food from here and the local groceries and supermarkets.

A little further away and somewhere we made a special trip to scope out is Farmatural in Alcudia. 

They stock a wide range of vegan products including non-dairy milks, soy yoghurts, vegan cheeses, burgers, seitan sausages, tofu frankfurters, veggie burgers, cream cheese, tofu based spreads, vegan margarines and cereals. Definitely worth a visit if you're on a self catering trip in the area, Alcudia is probably too anglicised for me to want to stay there but it's busy and has a late night bar and club scene if that's your thang.

One of my fave' things to hunt down when I'm in Spain are palmeritas! These delicious sweet pastries are up there with my favourite treats. All of the freshly baked ones we found had honey but these were a-ok and I ate a lot of them! They're make perfect snacks after a long day on the beach, hell, go crazy, take them to the beach!

Another thing that makes a great beach snack is these crisps, so yummy, so addictive. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the MSG! We found both these and the palmeritas in the Eroski supermarket.

We broke out the veggie burgers for dinner the next night after a long and relaxing day at, yup, you guessed it, the beach! We ate them alongside noochy cheesy pasta which is one of our favourite easy to cook dishes.

As you know I took a block of Vegusto with me but I also took a baggie of nooch. I almost always take nooch on my travels! It perked up my salads, enlivened my avocado toast at breakfast time and made noochy cheesy pasta possible. Yum!

We had the best trip, we love the beach, we love swimming in the sea and Nick loved taking me for my first snorkel ever! It took me a while to let go of his hand but I did it and I saw fish! Big ones, small ones, medium ones and even some stripy ones. It was so great and I can't wait to travel to some further flung places where I'll be able to see exciting coloured fish, rays or even turtles, it's going to be so amazing.