Monday, 30 June 2014

Foodie Fridays - Pho @ Trinity Kitchen

Last Friday, we went to watch Misfits after work - but we needed to get some food before standing in a crowded room for hours.

I hadn't yet explored Trinity Kitchen (in the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds), as even though they get street vendors in to sell their food (rotating on a monthly basis), it still felt like it would be run by the big corporate shopping centre... I dunno, sort of like supporting the big company instead of the little people?

When we got there, it was a lot nicer than I had expected. There was a good variety of choice between the stalls with nice communal seating areas.

I ordered from Pho, a Vietnamese stall - the name sharing that of Vietnam's national dish (noodle soup). They have a number of locations around the country and a tasty looking menu!


I opted for the Pho Xao Veggie, which was a dish consisting of wok-fried flat rice noodles served with crunchy greens, tofu and mushrooms, topped with roasted peanuts and beansprouts:


It was wonderful! I have a bit of a thing about finding good vegan noodles, as so many places still use egg noodles as the only option - and these did not disappoint. The portion was huge, with lots of tofu (my only complaint would be that there weren't very many mushrooms to say that it was listed as "tofu and mushroom"), and tasted amazing. If you get the chance to visit a branch of Pho, I would definitely recommend it.

As for Trinity Kitchen, I'm still undecided. It didn't really seem to know what it wanted to be - part outdoor picnic area/BBQ area, part cocktail bar, part diner... The area we sat in had fake turf and outdoorsy style cafe tables - but it felt like they were trying a little too hard.

Overall, it was a nice enough place to have dinner before going to a gig but if I wanted to go out for a meal I would probably choose somewhere else. It was great for what we needed though - some quick tasty, wholesome food. (Well, not necessarily wholesome - Mr Hatter chose fish & chips!)

I do think it's a great place for street food vendors to showcase their wares though, and that is one of the reasons I think I will be back here at some point. I believe the wonderful Banh Mi Booth are in there now, the vendors having just swapped over. I would recommend you to go try their wares - see my Brandon Street Night Market post!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

#TVK8

I have another rather late post for you - surprise, surprise!

I do sort of have a reason for this one though... I wanted to wait until I had tried more things in the box before posting about it, but for one reason and another I've still only managed to try a couple of things so far! Since the next box is being shipped on Wednesday, I thought I'd better put this up now!


This month's box was full of tasty delights.

1. Ten Acre 'The Story of when the Cheese met the Onion' Crisps

These are vegan cheese and onion flavour crisps! Not only are they vegan, they are also gluten free and MSG free. It's been so long since I had cheese and onion crisps that I had no idea whether they tasted like "real" cheese and onion crisps, but Mr Hatter assures me that they did. We had them with some veggie lasagne:


2. Sativa Shakes Strawberry and Banana Protein Powder

I've not yet used this protein powder, but we are planning on having shakes for breakfast this week so I'm looking forward to using this - I'm thinking it would go well blended with a banana, some almond milk, and a handful of oats... yum!

3. Mr Organic Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

This is the item I was most excited about when I opened my box and I've still not tried it! Every time I plan to use it for dinner, something comes up and we end up having something else. I love pesto, and keep imagining different ways I could cook this - but I don't know how I'll decide which one to go with! Mr Organic's products are traceable back to the fields where it was grown, and is processed within 5 hours from harvesting. It looks lush!

4. inSpiral Raw Chocolately Superfood Bites

This is something else that I'm hoping to use this coming week. I've been trying to find healthy, tasty snacks (gotta love nakd bars and Trek flapjacks!), so this seems to fit the bill nicely! They are full of cacao, fruits, seeds, nuts and wholegrains and I can't wait to get my teeth around them. The bag is even compostable!

5. Peppy Galore Diva Toner / Refreshing Facial Spray

This toner is intended for sensitive skin, and is made of real rose water because it has been used for centureis to calm the skin and reduce redness. I have temperamental skin on my face so I'm hoping this might help to keep it under control! It smells lovely and is nice and refreshing when sprayed onto the skin.

6. Recipe Card

This month's recipe card was from Sharon at Bit Of The Good Stuff, and was for a Sunshine pizza - very apt as it was National Vegan Pizza Day yesterday! (We missed it yesterday but are having pizza tonight to make up for it, yay!)


This month's charity was The Fox Project, who help sick, injured and orphaned foxes. 10p of every box sold was donated to this worthwhile charity. I wonder who it will be next month?


There's still a little bit of 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!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Vegan Ireland - Blazing Salads

Last week was my mum's 60th birthday, so my sister and I wanted to do something special for her. She loves folk music and has always wanted to visit Ireland, so we booked a trip to Dublin for me, my sister, my mum, and Mr Hatter.

First food stop for me was Blazing Salads:



Blazing Salads offers a serve-yourself selection of cold salads and hot meals. The salad bar is entirely vegan (not everything in the shop is vegan), and everything is labelled to show if it is vegan / sugar free / dairy free / gluten free / yeast free / wheat free. The food is sold by weight, so you just grab a box and start filling it up! (I tried to portion out my heavy vs light stuff so my box wouldn't cost too much... it came in at 6 euros, which I thought was a very good price for the amount I got.)

By the time we got to Blazing Salads, I was too hungry and it was too busy for me to note all the salads I tried - but if you take a look at the website, I got a bit of almost everything! There were maybe 14 salads to choose from, and I think I took a portion of at least 9 of those... plus there was a selection of dips/dressings as well!

It felt like a new lunch each time I finished a layer:

Layer 1 - Hummus, Moroccan Beetroot & Carrot, some sort of dressing (tofu & parsley??)...


Layer 2 - Asian Noodle Salad, Chickpea with Tahini Mustard Dressing, Carrot & Daikon Salad


Layer 3 - Garden Leaves, another beetroot salad, Mixed Grain with Tofu & Shoyu Dressing, and I'm sure there was some giant cous cous / wheatberries / something in there too...


Needless to say, this place was amazing. I wish there was something like this in Leeds - it's definitely somewhere I would visit again if I found myself back in Dublin. I would've liked to try the hot food but at the time, I just wanted salad and we didn't manage to revisit it. I can vouch for all the salads I tried as being amazing though!

I think the only downside is that there is no seating area (other than a bench outside the shop), but I guess that's one of the things that allows it to function so well.

Do go and visit this place if you're ever in Dublin - it will change the way you look at salad!

Vegan Package Swap - May 2014

Yes, yes, it's nearly June and I'm only just posting up the write up of my May vegan box swap...

For the May swap, I received another Polish partner, who sent me a lovely box:


I seem to have used a lot of the products without taking photos for some reason, so you'll just have to put up with a description!

So starting at the top, there are two tubs of pâté both of which were very tasty. (I think Mr Hatter and I have discovered a love of pâté!)

The two fruity bars went quickly - they were made out of dehydrated fruit and were a lot tastier than I imagined they would be!

The drink in the yellow pouch was like a very thick fruit smoothie, which was strange coming from a plastic pouch... It tasted very healthy!

The rice cakes also tasted very healthy, as I think they were made from brown rice. I enjoyed them a lot more than the white rice cakes I've had before - although I do like white rice cakes too.

The only other thing I have tried so far is one of the pudding sachets. I tried part hot, and part once it had cooled down in the fridge and both were yummy. I think pudding/jelly sachets are the only common thing I've had from my various Polish swap boxes.

I can't wait to try the rest! Mr Hatter and I are going to have a healthy few weeks (in preparation for Mr Hatter's impending birthday), so I've planned in some meals using the millet and barley. Maybe some of those meals will make their way onto the blog...?

If you want to find out more about the Vegan Package Swap, or even take part yourself, take a look at the All About Vegan Food website here.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Weekend Kitchen Experiments

I think weekends are a great time to experiment with new things in the kitchen. Unfortunately, there are many weekends where I don't get the time - but this weekend we had few plans and lots of free time to play around. Great!

I tend to bake bread on a Saturday morning (time permitting), and thought I would try something new this week. I decided to go for the Maneesh recipe from Paul Hollywood's Bread. It is a Middle-Eastern flatbread, topped with herbs and sesame seeds and it was very tasty!


Next up was something I have probably craved more than anything else as a vegan - donuts.

I did find a vegan donut at VegFest but I found it sickly and disappointing. I think one of the things that fuels my craving (although this isn't what started it), is that when we meet up with Miss Vicky and her quest helper, we tend to go for coffee and donuts. Or in my case, hot chocolate / creme frappe and no donuts, as I don't like coffee and Krispy Kreme aren't vegan! But donuts were on my list for a long time before we started the coffee and donuts routine.

And I finally got around to making them!

We had glazed donuts...



We had jammy donuts...


(BLURRY PHOTO WARNING)


And they were GOOD. (Even if I do say so myself.) They definitely satisfied my craving, and Mr Hatter said they were very convincing donuts. My mission for next time is to try to recreate some of the Krispy Kreme flavours based on his descriptions - as I've never had them!

Chocolate Pudding Pie with Chia Seeds

Recently, I was asked by Laura over at Beesy Does It whether I could produce a healthy vegan recipe, using a few of the ingredients available at Wikaniko. I love a challenge, so I accepted!

The ingredients I chose were Chia Seeds, Coconut Sugar, Coconut Oil and Cacao Butter. I had never used chia seeds or cacao butter before, but had been interested in trying them so though this was the perfect opportunity!

Wikaniko has an easy-to-navigate vegan section here - see if there's anything that takes your fancy...

The recipe I came up with is vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, and can be nut-free if the almonds are replaced with sesame seeds. I hope you like it! (It passed the Mr Hatter seal of approval.)


Chocolate Pudding Pie with Chia Seeds

 Base:
150g pitted dates
150g ground almonds
50g desiccated coconut
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Filling:
1 can coconut milk (400ml)
30g chia seeds
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut sugar
100g cacao butter, chopped


  1. In a large jug, soak the chia seeds in the coconut milk for at least an hour, or up to overnight. The chia seeds should plump up and the mixture will become thick.
  2. Using a food processor, blend the dates into a paste. Add the ground almonds, desiccated coconut and melted coconut oil and blend until fully combined. The mixture should start to clump up, and should hold together when pressed between the fingers.
  3. Tip the date mixture into a 9-inch tin (I used a loose-bottomed cake tin, base lined with greasproof paper for easy pie removal) and press firmly. The base layer should be level and feel firm to the touch. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When the chia seeds have soaked in the coconut milk for long enough, blend them in a food processor with the cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
  5. Using a small pan set over a larger pan of boiling water (the small pan should not touch the surface of the water), melt the coconut sugar and cacao butter until combined and there are no lumps of cacao butter remaining. Don't worry if the sugar doesn't all melt. Add this to the food processor and blend until well combined and smooth.
  6. Pour the filling mixture over the base and smooth the surface.
  7. Place back in the fridge until the filling has set. I would recommend overnight but if you are pushed for time, you can check it after a couple of hours – just gently shake the tin and see how much the filling moves. It should be pretty firm when it is ready.
  8. To make it easier to cut, you can run a sharp knife under hot water then dry off before slicing into the pie.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Foodie Fridays - Noonshine Cafe (June Menu)

Last Friday brought with it a new menu from The Grub & Grog shop at Noonshine Cafe (held at Outlaws Yacht Club). I even managed to convince Mr Hatter to go with me this month!


I went for the vegan sandwich option this time - Roast Beetroot with tamarind and crushed chickpeas, served in a ciabatta roll from Leeds Bread Co-Op. It was very tasty (although I think the carrot sandwich is still my favourite!).

The crushed chickpeas were fabulous... I am a big fan of hummus (and chickpeas in general), so I appreciate it when it's done well. This was like a chunky, well-flavoured hummus-type spread, which I would definitely get again!


I won't talk about Mr Hatter's sandwich, as he chose the meat option, but we both followed up with a slice of vegan cake from That Old Chestnut. He got a piece of chocolate-banana cake, and I had a slice of the carrot cake I had last time. However, we were so ready to get stuck into the cake that I forgot to take any photos! Sorry! Mine was as lovely as last time, and I am assured that the chocolate-banana cake was great too.

This menu is on for the whole of June, so get on down there and try something!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival - May 2014

Last month, we had our first ever big vegan festival in Yorkshire - The Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival. There was no way I was going to miss it!

It was held at Queen's Hotel, which is right next to the train station, so easy for everyone to find. There was already a queue forming when we arrived, but as we were all crammed into the hotel foyer it was a bit chaotic! Unfortunately, the venue had double booked and the festival ended up in a smaller space than originally intended - meaning it was rather cozy, and very warm. (I'm pointing this out now as it will be relevant later - it wasn't the festival's fault at all.)

There was a free goody bag for the first 100 (I think?) people through the door, which was fab! It was packed full of stuff:


I've still not tried all the items yet! The coconut ice was yummy, as were the snack bar and  the branberry cereal (I had mine with soya yogurt). The pot in the white bag is a new deodorant, which you rub into your armpits. It's a little grainy but rubs in well and has a nice fragrance. I've not yet tried the items but I'm sure they will be lovely!

The day started with a breakfast hot dog (sorry for the poor photo) - you can't go to a vegan festival and not have a hot dog!


We had a wander around all the stalls and saw lots of nice things - but I didn't end up buying as much as I'd expected. I think the heat and cramped conditions put me off spending too much time in one place. I wondered initially if it was because I had been spoiled by choice and space when I went to VegFest in London last year, but I think if this festival had had the right amount of room to move around in then it would have felt better.

I did come home with some treats though!

I found some chocolate to try (to be reviewed in a separate post);


a new brand of meat substitute to sample (which were very tasty... although be warned if you buy the sausages there is a second layer of plastic to take off before cooking!);


and we even found some goodies for the cats (they liked the treats in the stripey bags but we've not tried the Ami Cat yet as we're using up what they already have first...)!


We also sampled a couple of pies, although unfortunately we weren't too keen on either of them... One was "cheese" and onion, and the other was a gluten-free creamy mushroom:

 

But most importantly, we came away with CAKE!

We shared some chocolate and hazelnut bundt from That Old Chestnut, a chocolate orange cupcake from Coconut Rose Tea Room, and a sparkly lemon cupcake from Captain Cakeman. They were all delicious! I'm sure you know by now how much I like That Old Chestnut, and this cake was just as good as it sounds; the chocolate orange cupcake was spot on (Mr Hatter's favourite of the three); and the lemon cupcake had a wonderful flavour - and it was SO GLITTERY!!!




I also came away with a mountain of leaflets from the various people we spoke to (and a free CD!)...


All in all it was a good day, despite the mishaps with the venue. My hopes for next time (because they are planning another one) would be: more variety as a lot of stalls seemed to duplicate each others products; more seating area so you can take a break/sit down with your food; more choice of food to eat there.

There are lots of other vegan festivals happening up North this year (there was one today in Lancashire in fact!), so hopefully I will be able to visit a few more before the year is out. Bring on the Northern food revolution!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lovely Presents

Now, when I've been saying recently that I'm catching up on outstanding blogs, you might think I'm just a few weeks behind.

NOPE!

This blog has been waiting to be written since JANUARY!!! I just had other time-specific blogs which I felt I should write first (although I do still have a couple of them outstanding too!)... but now the time has come to show you some lovely presents I received for my birthday:


These scented cushions were made by Miss Vicky over at The Questing Adventurer. Everything that has been used to create them is vegan, from the fabric to the scented oils - they smell like gingerbread! Mmmmm! I keep one in my t-shirt cupboard and one on my headboard, so I get lovely wafts of gingerbread smell at random times.

Miss Vicky now also has her own Etsy shop set up - Unique And Geek Gifts - and although these cushions aren't listed I'm sure she would make you some if you asked very nicely! (Please note that as Miss Vicky isn't vegan, I can't promise that everything in the shop will be vegan-friendly, but I'm sure she would be happy to answer any questions!)

There are some VERY pretty My Little Pony champagne glasses, and I've seen some of the not-yet-listed items... if they get posted you're in for a real treat!

Here's a closer look at those pillows:



Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Foodie Fridays

Friday last week was  the last Friday of the month, which meant it was time for the Brandon Street Night Market to roll around again at Canal Mills.

We originally weren't planning on attending this month, as we are going to Ireland in a couple of weeks and are trying to keep hold of our money for that trip. However, the announcement of multiple vendors offering vegan options swayed my decision! The ones I knew I would be able to eat from were Manjit's Kitchen, Street Fodder, and Fresh Rootz. Unfortunately Fresh Rootz pulled out at the last minute so I didn't get to sample their wares.

First up was a "Chapasty" from Manjit's Kitchen :


The sign at the stall told me that a "Chapasty is a cross between a chapati and a pasty" - and it did not disappoint! I went for the Spiced Cauliflower flavour, as I was assured it was vegan, and it was lovely. The chapati held in the filling like a pasty, and tasted great for being cooked on the hot plate. I would definitely get one of these again - I can see why people rave about them!


Next, I was a bit rebellious and had my dessert... Persian candy floss!


This delight was from a vendor called Afsaneh's Kitchen and was very different to candy floss I've had before! I asked for the ingredients to check that it was safe (sugar, water and glucose syrup), and the lady behind the stall was lovely enough to tell me what makes it different to English candy floss. While English candy floss is spun (in those big metal bowls), Persian candy floss is pulled, which is why it created all those long strands you can (sort of) see in the photo. It wasn't as sweet as English candy floss, which put off the other people I was with - but as I'm not a big fan of 'regular' candy floss, I really enjoyed the Persian variety! They also seemed to have a lot on their menu which would be vegan, as there was a lot of choice for the Mezze and also a chickpea stew. If I see them again I would love to try some of their savoury items - the portions looked huge!


Last but by no means least, I visited Street Fodder. I had previously bought from them at Belgrave Street Feast (and posted about it here), so I knew it was going to be yummy. I opted for the Shiitake Spring Rolls, so that Mr Hatter and I could share them.


They were fantastic! Huge spring rolls, filled with lots of slices of shiitake mushroom (and all the other staple spring roll ingredients). The salad always seems to be great from here too, and gets munched down just as quickly as the main part of the dish.


So after the initial disappointment that Fresh Rootz had pulled out, we actually had a good food haul. Unfortunately, the artists hadn't started (or looked like they had even started setting up) by the time we were ready to leave - hopefully we'll get to watch them next time though.