Monday, 31 March 2014

It's That Time Again!

Last week saw the arrival of the last Friday of the month, which can only mean one thing - a shakeup of the Noonshine Cafe menu at Outlaws Yacht Club! (You can find a reminder of last month's menu here.) So of course, I just HAD to go down and try out Grub & Grog Shop's new vegan stew. And I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and say hello to the lovely Sarah from Noisette Bakehouse, who was there with an amazing selection of cakey goodness.

The vegan stew for this month is "Pearl barley, Jerusalem artichoke & parsnip with toasted sunflower seeds, pickled artichoke & parsley", and is served with Leeds Bread Co-Op's weekly special:


I used to think I didn't like artichoke but each time I try it, it seems to have been prepared in a completely different way and it's really opened my eyes! (I do love both parsnips and pickled things so this stew was probably the perfect combination to make me like artichoke...)

This stew was a brilliant mix of crunchy, soft, and hearty; with the pearl barley providing a toothsome (can I get away with using that word?? I'm not so sure...) backdrop to the crunchy parsnips and tasty artichokes. But what really makes me "mmmm" at Grub & Grog's stews is the toppings. Both stews I've tried have been topped with apple strips and something pickled and that sweet/sour/crunchy/tangy combo is just mouth-watering. Mmmm mmmm mmmm. As always, the bread from Leeds Bread Co-Op was a fantastic side to mop up the stew.

And then it was time for cake.

To be honest, the stew was so filling I didn't really have much space for cake. Well, when I say I "didn't have much space for cake", I of course mean I could live without it but could squeeze some in if necessary... which it was.


I must apologise here - this picture really doesn't do the cake justice, but I was so looking forward to eating it, I didn't spend enough time setting up my shot properly. You have no idea how excited I was to see such a pretty TRIPLE LAYER cake. I don't think I've ever seen a triple layer vegan cake to buy somewhere that wasn't a dedicated veggie place - even then, I'm struggling to think of somewhere I've seen offering a triple layer cake. So yes, I was excited.

This little beauty was a Sticky Raspberry Date Cake, complete with homemade raspberry jam sandwiching the layers together and a gorgeous almond topping. This cake tasted fantastic - just the right amount of sweetness, and the raspberry filling was splendid. It had quite a dense texture, which worked well with the flavour and brought the whole thing together brilliantly. I love trying the vegan items from Noisette Bakehouse - I know it's something that Sarah tries to be inventive with and I think it's wonderful that more people are providing vegan options on their menus. I always jump at the chance to try Noisette's new vegan offerings!

I would definitely recommend both the Grub & Grog Shop and Noisette Bakehouse to anyone - they also do non-vegan food for all you veganophobes out there!

I also just want to mention the guys from North Star Coffee, who are there at the Noonshine Cafe each time but as I don't like coffee they never get a mention, as I never buy anything from them! So head on over and check them out if you're a coffee drinker :)

Sunday, 16 March 2014

#TVK5

Can you believe we're up to the fifth TVK box already? I can't! I've had so much great stuff out of this lifestyle, I can't recommend it enough. Let's take a look inside this month's box...


It's another great mix of sweet, savoury and household items!

1. Greenfrog Natural Washing Up Liquid


This is another skin- and environmentally-friendly cleaning products from Greenfrog, utilising soapnuts. I've not tried this yet as I already have an open bottle of washing up liquid!

2. SAF Express Raw Coconut Cookies


Saf (Simply Authentic Foods) is a London-based restaurant who provide a lot of raw food options. Saf Express allows you to take some of these tasty treats with you. These coconut cookies came in three flavours - plain, mint, and berry - all of which were very tasty! (I had to take Mr Hatter's word for it on the mint ones as I'm not a big mint fan...) They are rather hard so be prepared to have strong teeth or cut them up before you try to eat them!

3. Flavour Magic Harissa Powder


I've had harissa in paste form before but not as a powder. This blend has a wonderful aroma and a great taste - we made the recipe included on this month's recipe card to test it out, which was lentil burger and harissa sweet potato fries. Yum yum! I can think of lots of things I want to try this in... and you get so much of it!

4. Onthepulse Hot Chick


I've not tried these yet but they sound great! Chickpeas take on a great flavour when roasted and I'm excited to see what the Jerk spice blend will add to it

5. Pulsin Raw Choc Brownie


Both me and Mr Hatter enjoyed this very much! It does taste remarkably like a brownie, although it's very dense. Pulsin have used 100% natural ingredients to create this, and there is no added sugar! Bonus!

This month's nominated charity was Cat Cuddles, so they receive 10p from every box sold this month. Head over to their website - there are some very cute cats on there! If you're near London you could help them out...

There's still time to sign up for the next box! Just head on over the The Vegan Kind's website and you too can be the proud owner of one of these boxes, for just £10 plus p&p!



Saturday, 15 March 2014

Yummy Food in Leeds

I've had some lovely food in Leeds over the past couple of days and wanted to share it with you! So this will just be a short post :)

My first treat was a "Chocolate and Tonka Almond Brittle" vegan cake from Noisette Bakehouse (which I got to take away - hence the street shot!). I love that more places are starting to stock vegan cake!


The second was an impromptu lunch at Little Tokyo, which is somewhere I've seen other vegans rave about but I've never been to. So when we arrived to find Global Tribe Cafe jam-packed due to a large booking (don't worry, we'll go back there soon to spend my vouchers!), we headed out into Leeds in search of vegan friendly food. Little Tokyo was a great find - it's so much nicer inside than it looks from the street! It's such a cosy place, I could've spent a lot longer just sitting in there if we didn't have things to be getting on with!

Anyway, the first treat was the home-made lemonade (I opted for the fizzy version), which comes with a dash of lime. It was amazing! And served in a jam jar - so cute! (Apologies for the dark photos, it was mood lighting...)


The second treat was my main course - a huge pile of noodles, vegetables and tofu! Yum yum! I love it when I find menu items that I can just order without having to ask for things to be changed!


Monday, 10 March 2014

Iron Cupcake - The VEGAN Edition!

As you may have already seen (from my many status updates!), this month's Iron Cupcake: Leeds theme was "vegan". I was equally excited and scared by this theme! Excited because it finally gave me a chance to buy a "Baker's Panel" ticket and taste other people's cupcakes; scared because I didn't want my baking to be shown up by non-vegans trying their hand at it!

To fit in with the vegan theme, I opted to make some sunflower cupcakes, as the Vegan Society have a sunflower as their logo. And being yellow, I thought the best flavour to do was lemon - so I ended up baking some "Lemon & Poppyseed Sunflowers".

The sunny day made taking these photos so easy!
The entries are judged on three categories - taste, decoration, and theme. I was pretty confident that my cakes fit the theme well, but taste and decoration rely so heavily on personal preference...

So...

The competition started and the four of us who had chosen to be on the Baker's Panel were gathered together. The idea of the Baker's Panel is that you bring an entry and also get to judge, for only an extra £3. So we all got to try ALL the entries and then we reconvened to discuss who we wanted to choose for the Baker's Panel prize. Being bakers, the judges on the baker's panel are looking at technical skills and judging what the bakers did well, using our baking knowledge as a basis for judging. We all chose the same two cupcakes as our top two and then narrowed it down to a yummy peanut buttery cupcake with home-made "Reese's Pieces" on top. Yum yum! It was so nice being able to try other people's cakes!

My cakes all set up and cut up for the competition

Then it was time for the results to be announced. The prizes for taste, decoration and theme went to some very deserving entries! (You can see photos on the Iron Cupcake website when it's updated - go take a look!) Taste went to the same baker we had picked for the Baker's Panel prize, and decoration went to an entry called "Potty about Vegans" which had been presented in a plant pot and decorated with a flower! Unfortunately, I lost out on theme to the Raspberry and White Chocolate cupcakes (they were spectacular though!).

However...

I did win the Best in Show prize! Woohoo! To win best in show, you have to have been nominated at least once in each category and have received the most nominations overall. So all my worry was for nothing - I am very happy with the result! I won £20 to spend at the wonderful Global Tribe Cafe and I am very much looking forward to spending them!


A couple of people asked for my recipe, so here it is... It does make A LOT of batter though - I managed to make 12 large cupcakes and an 8 inch single layer cake out of it, so you may want to scale the recipe down a little. This would also work well as a loaf cake if you used the entire recipe.

Lemon & Poppyseed Sunflowers (adapted from Vanilla-Yogurt Pound Cake in Veganomicon)

juice of 1 lemon
up to 3/4 cup soy milk (see recipe)
1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
1/2 cup blended silken tofu (blend before measuring)
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups plain flour
3 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds

to decorate
a batch of your favourite vanilla icing, with lemon zest and extract added to taste
dairy-free chocolate vermicelli

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cupcake liners and set aside.
2. Pour your lemon juice into a 3/4-cup measuring cup and fill the remaining space with soy milk. In a large bowl, beat this mixture together with the soy yogurt, blended tofu, sugar, oil and extracts. Beat until smooth.
3. Sift in the dry ingredients (except the poppy seeds - just tip these in) and stir in with a wooden spoon until combined and no large lumps remain but do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.
4. Fill cupcake liners about two-thirds full (I use an ice cream scoop to make sure I get the same amount into each paper case). Reserve any extra batter to make a single layer cake with.
5. Bake for around 20 minutes, depending on your oven - I would check them at 18 minutes as they can brown quite quickly. They are done once a skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Once cooled, you can decorate them with your favourite icing. If you want to make them look like sunflowers, there is a wonderful tutorial here, which was a great help when I was practising!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Noonshine Cafe

On Friday, I went out for lunch. In a cafe. On my own. And I realised that it was probably the first time I've ever sat down to lunch in a cafe on my own, in my whole 29 years. Strange, eh?

I wasn't sure if I could be able to sit in to eat my lunch as Outlaws Yacht Club, who were hosting the event was way over the other side of town and I didn't know quite where it was. In fact, I walked straight past it the first time and had to double back on myself...

However, when I got there I asked how long it was likely to take, and was assured it would be super duper quick so I decided to chance it and sit down rather than going for the take away option and heading back to work. I'm glad I did! As promised, the service was snappy and I got to sit and enjoy my lunch in the lovely surroundings of this funky little place. The website describes it as art / cafe bar / hangout, which I totally agree with - I think I'll have to try the comfy chairs next time!

The Noonshine Cafe happens here every Friday, with a menu from The Grub & Grog Shop, bread from Leeds Bread Co Op and cakes from Noisette Bakehouse. This was the menu I got to choose from, so obviously I went for the vegan option. There were no vegan cakes unfortunately but I have been assured by the lovely Sarah at Noisette Bakehouse that there will be vegan cakes on the last Friday of each month - bring it on! (Her baking is delicious!)

Now, it's good when I go somewhere and there's a vegetarian dish which is accidentally vegan. I love it when I go somewhere and they actively state on their menu which items are vegan. I adore it when that vegan dish is as good as this one was! The stew was lovely and rich, with tender grains and gorgeous flavours. The apple and mushroom topping was spectacular! It contrasted so well with the stew that it made the perfect partner, especially alongside the crunchy-sweet walnut and raisin bread. I would definitely recommend checking these guys out if you get chance!


The Grub and Grog shop are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to get themselves set up with a van so that they can travel around the UK to provide catering at events, markets and festivals. If they are going to continue providing top quality, healthy vegan food like this then I shall be backing them all the way, I really hope they make it! Anyone that is helping to bring vegan food to the mainstream and making it more acceptable, more appealing, and easier to get hold of is doing something right in my book! You can take a look at their kickstarter campaign here.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Vegan Package Swap - February 2014

For this month's vegan package swap, I was teamed up with another person from Poland. I got a completely different box to the box from my last Polish swap partner, so that was nice! It's always great to see the variation of vegan products in other countries.

I got LOADS of treats in my package this month, just look at all this swag:


We've tried about half of the items so far. There was no note included this time, so this is what I think everything is, with the aid of online translation!

Savoury crispy breadstick like snacks (top right) - These seem to be made from corn! Rather interesting texture but unfortunately they had been a bit squashed in transit.

Puffed rice? - I think that's what these are (next to the above savoury snacks) - when I looked it up online it mentioned breakfast cereal. I think I might try putting these into some sort of chocolate bar or rocky road or something for some extra crunch.

Vanilla safari cookies - Again, these have been a bit squashed on the way. We've not tried these yet but I'm quite looking forward to them. They look like savoury crackers but they are vanilla flavour - I think these will be perfect for an evening watching films!

Dark chocolate with orange peel - These were yummy. At first I thought they were a little too bitter but I think that's just because I didn't get any orange peel in the first bite! I'm a sucker for the old orange/chocolate combo!

Chocolate-mint bars - These bars were like after eight chocolates, with a fondant centre. I'm not a fan of minty chocolate so I gave these to the other half. They were both gone in a day so I can only assume that they were good!

PUB crackers - These were savoury, salty cracker biscuits - like the Tuk biscuits you get in the UK. They were tasty!

Biscuits that I think are similar to digestive biscuits. We are yet to try these - it's dangerous to have biscuits in the cupboard in this house though!

Mixed nuts and raisins - This sort of thing is always good! Yum yum!

Sweeties - Unfortunately the sweets in the orange packet contained honey (I think this was a genuine mistake by my swap partner). However, as the husband isn't vegan I passed them his way...

And last but not least...

Savoury crackers - Again, a little crushed on the journey but these look like they will be good for scooping up hummus and the like.

All in all, a good box - lots of variety!

If you fancy having a go yourself and seeing what the food is like in other countries, head on over to All About Vegan Food's Package Swap Page. You don't have to be vegan to take part but all the items sent in the boxes must be suitable for vegans. It's a great way to learn about food you might not otherwise discover.