Vegan in Munich: Part One

Since I first visited the vegan paradise that is Berlin, I have faithfully called it my favourite German city. But this Easter I betrayed it by making a sneaky trip to Munich.  And I regret nothing!

We marked our arrival in Munich with a trip to Bodhi, an all-vegan pub/restaurant specialising in Bavarian cuisine.  It’s not limited to Bavarian food though, with numerous burgers on the menu alongside some extremely tempting fried starters.  The starters menu actually reminded me of Madrid tapas bar B13, with its onion rings, crispy seitan bites, and these calimari. They had that perplexing rubbery texture (it’s delicious, but how do they do it?!), a taste of the sea, and light, crispy batter.  Highly recommended if, like me, you rarely get a chance to try this dish.

The buffalo cauliflower was also excellent.  I’ve made this dish a few times, so it was nice to finally have it made for me to figure out what it’s actually meant to be like. Oh, I loved it.  It was really succulent, oozing with flavour, and so beautifully fried.

We moved on to some actual Bavarian stuff for the mains.  I spent my Erasmus year in Augsburg, just outside Munich, and as a vegetarian, Kässpatzn was basically the only dish I ever ate in restaurants.  So it was nice to try it again as a vegan – but I wonder if the portions were always this gigantic?!  It’s essentially a mac’n’cheese, with an especially creamy sauce.  The fried onions were a little soft, more’s the pity, but the pepper and herbs on top were just perfect. It came with a side salad, which just seemed silly:  let’s have no pretence of healthiness with this beast!

Dr HH went for the more varied Pfanderl plate, which he positively raved about.  It featured two huge, crispy, delicious slabs of soy steak, some kind of huge potato dumpling, lots of red cabbage and a rich, sharp beery sauce.  He was very pleased with his choice.  As you can see, this was also a huge portion.

There are a few desserts on the menu, and we opted to share the Kaiserschmarrn (if you’re planning a visit, please note that it takes 20 minutes to prepare).  This was a real treat, and even though we were already pretty full, it was not the kind of dish we could abandon.  It is essentially a pancake with raisins and almonds in it, torn into pieces, deep-fried, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with a pot of apple sauce.  If that doesn’t tempt you, then what kind of monster are you?!  I would definitely recommend sharing this – it was hearty.

We ate so much food here, and it should definitely be on your itinerary if you’re visiting, particularly if you want to try some hearty German food.  The menu is in English as well as German and the staff were really friendly and helpful.  It was nice to be in a pub again as well – there isn’t a smoking ban in the Czech Republic yet (allegedly coming in June), so I never venture in them here.  Despite all the German food, it felt like a very British experience!

The next morning we breakfasted at Lost Weekend, a bookshop/vegan cafe close to the university. I had seen on Instagram that they sometimes had croissants, so we were a bit disappointed to find sandwiches and cakes but no pastries.  We made the most of it, though, as you can see.

I had some breakfast cake, of course:  the carrot cake was really good, and so sticky on top.

Dr HH loved his antipasti sandwich too, with its roasted courgette, sundried tomatoes, hummus and nicely toasted bread.  A great start to the day!

The next day started even better though – we popped back to Lost Weekend and found a hearty pile of chocolate croissants.  Hurray!  The croissant itself was really flaky, with excellent layers.  Best of all, it was both dipped in chocolate and filled with chocolate.  The chocolate inside was quite solid, and I bet it would have been even better if it was all melted and gooey.  This was a great place to grab breakfast, and would be equally good for a lunch. Also, great for people watching.

A similar breakfast/lunch kind of place is Tushita Teehaus, a pretty little tea house with a couple of breakfast dishes, a daily Buddha bowl-style lunch and an impressive cabinet of cakes.  It’s extremely popular, so booking is recommended – we just managed to squeeze in.  On the day we visited, this was the bowl:  rice, asparagus, aubergine, beautifully seasoned tofu, salad, and broccoli with pesto.  There are two sizes available (€9 or €13.50), and I’d suggest getting the small so that you have room for cake as well.

We shared a slice of this black and white cake, which had a wonderful biscuitty base and beautiful creamy marbled filling.

We also picked up a couple of seitan pasties to take with us on our day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle the next day.  Even though they were cold, they were really tasty.  Unfortunately the seitan was in really tiny pieces, but the rest of the filling was great: lots of cabbage and spices.

And the castle wasn’t too bad either!

What a great start to our visit, eh?  Come back for part two to find out if Munich has replaced Berlin in my heart!

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MiniMoFo: Vegan Chocolate

April’s MiniMoFo theme is “in season”, and it’s Easter this month, so what could be more seasonal than chocolate?!  It was my birthday at the beginning of April and I got a surprising amount of chocolate.  And happily, it’s all on the approved list of the Food Empowerment Project.

If this project is new to you, please take a few minutes to read up on it.  The approved list is a great guide to which chocolate companies are completely cruelty free:  that is to say, neither animal cruelty nor human slave labour involved.  These are the companies I am happy to give my money to.

All five chocolate bars I got for my birthday are safely on the list, and I can’t recommend them enough!  Here are my thoughts:

1.Solkiki Los Rios 49% Mylk

I discovered Solkiki at the VON Christmas Fair in Manchester last year, and I was counting down until I could ask for some more bars as a birthday treat – they’re not cheap, but they’re mega delicious. At the fair we tried a few samples of dark and white chocolate, and bought a couple of each, but there was no milk chocolate for sampling, which means I was extra keen to get my hands on some this time around.

It was worth the wait – so creamy and delicious!  It’s definitely one of the best milk chocolates I’ve had, and I’m already trying to justify the cost of another order.

2.Solkiki Tahitian Nougat

The other bar I got was the Tahitian Nougat, which I also had at Christmas.  It’s salty, nutty and just incredible.  The man who was selling the bars at the Christmas fair said confidently that this is not the kind of chocolate you can eat in one sitting, but I strongly disagree – Dr HH and I make pretty short work of these!  It’s so creamy that it doesn’t really resemble white chocolate, which is no bad thing in my opinion.

3.Rapunzel Nirwana Vegan

I’ve never seen this chocolate in the UK, so I was happy to try something new.  I still remember the gloomy days when I didn’t know about vegan milk chocolate and subsisted on dark chocolate -it’s nice to be enlightened at last!  This one is really nice, and a much more affordable every-day alternative to the Solkiki one above (though not quite as good).

4.iChoc White Vanilla

I’ve had a few iChoc bars in the past, but this flavour was new to me.  Like their other flavours, it was very good.  White chocolate is always a bit weird (dairy or otherwise), and I only really enjoy it when I’m the mood, but this one is very good, thanks to that twist of vanilla.  I’m thinking of using the rest of this bar in baking, which is my preferred way to eat white chocolate.

5.Vego

Vego is perhaps the most beloved chocolate bar in the vegan community.  It’s very reminiscent of Cadbury’s Whole Nut, which I used to enjoy. The chunks are absolutely gigantic, which means you can sound virtuous by saying “I’ll only have one square”, but as the ‘square’ is the size of a small child you can still be a total glutton.

 

What chocolate have you tucked into this Easter?  Are there any incredible vegan, FEP-approved bars I’m missing out on?

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Vegan in Prague: Sweet Secret of Raw

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If you’re a fan of raw food, Prague is definitely the place to be.  There are approximately nine trillion raw vegan restaurants here.  Personally, I’m not a raw enthusiast:  I find it expensive, sometimes not as good as the cooked version (things like crackers, bread and falafel, all of which I’ve tried raw), and unsuited to the freezing winters of the Czech Republic.

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Raw cake, however, is a whole different story.  Sweet Secret of Raw is a pretty little cafe in Prague 2 (not too far from the city centre) with an extremely tempting display of cakes.  The chocolate cheesecake is so rich, I actually struggled to finish it – and that’s saying something for me!

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In fact, all of the cakes are fairly substantial.  When you leave this cafe, you certainly know you’ve eaten well!  The Raffaelo cake at the front here was especially delicious.  There are always 5-10 cakes on offer, along with the tasting menu where you can have slivers of them all. Dr HH is keen to try this, but I just don’t think I could handle that much cake!  The cakes are all labelled only in Czech, but the staff usually speak a little English, or you can just gamble on the most delicious-looking concoction.

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They do have an English breakfast menu though.  Breakfast is served 8am-12pm, and it’s pretty exciting fare.  Alongside a few porridge varieties, there are these pancakes with chocolate cream and banana slices.  It’s quite hard to cut through the pancakes themselves, but it’s a really delicious meal.  I was worried it wouldn’t be filling enough, but I was absolutely stuffed!

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Dr HH ordered a dish called ‘caramel squares’, so we were quite surprised when this glass appeared.  But it’s not merely a smoothie:  the glass is full of date, peanut butter and sprouted buckwheat squares (kind of like a Nakd bar), smothered in a banana milkshake.  He really enjoyed it, and was also too full to contemplate a cake afterwards.

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If you’re ordering one of these breakfasts, you probably don’t need to have a hot chocolate too.  I mean, this is insanely good, but it’s also thick and rich and might push you over the edge if you’re having a huge breakfast too.  The drink has a beautiful ginger flavour running through it, and it’s one of the best hot chocolates I’ve had here – and Prague is a pretty amazing city for vegan hot chocolate!

Do try to squeeze in a trip to Sweet Secret of Raw if you’re in Prague.  They don’t do savoury food, as the name suggests – making it the perfect indulgence when you’re treating yourself on holiday!

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Vegan in Prague: Loving Hut

I love it when people ask for recommendations for Prague on social media, just to see what the popular choices are.  Unfortunately, I tend to disagree with the most common ones:  Maitrea, Lehka Hlava and Loving Hut.  Personally I’ve always found the latter to be a reliable back-up choice with hearty portions of decent food, but it’s never on my itinerary when I’m on holiday.  I first discovered it when I was living in Hong Kong, and was a big fan of the mock meat dishes there.  In Prague I think the food isn’t quite as good, but it’s still a good option to have.  Not holiday-itinerary-good, though.

Perhaps the Loving Hut restaurants here (there are eight of them) are most famous for their pay-by-weight buffets.  Indeed you can get a good selection of fresh salads, cooked veg and meaty dishes, and crispy deep-fried goods, but the grub tends to be lukewarm at best. (I gave the buffet a full review here in my Prague vegan buffet round-up.)

You can also order from the menu (though be warned that the customer service is very typically Czech and may leave a lot to be desired if you’re not used to it).  There are a few Italian and western (hamburger) dishes, that I personally would always steer clear of because they don’t really play to the strengths of the chain – I rely on them for good Asian food, but fear their non-Asian dishes might not be so good.  They have a tempting selection of starters, including these crispy little dumplings which are great to share.

When my brother was staying with us we took him here for an emergency lunch after finding ourselves short of options in the city centre.  Surprisingly, he went for a classic European dish with this schnitzel and mash.  Even more surprisingly (for he is a happy meat-eater), he really enjoyed it!  This just goes to show that nobody can argue with the Loving Hut’s mock meat dishes – they really know what they’re doing.

Dr HH was tempted by the mock prawns and got this Thai curry.  The prawns were excellent, but unfortunately the curry itself was a bit bland. It also contained a few chunks that were inedible – we thought they might be bits of artichoke.  It was a shame, and he wouldn’t order it again.

I was far happier with my choice, the Cantonese Speciality.  The vegetables are served in a nice gingery sauce, but the real highlight is the battered soy slices.  They are so good and crispy!  The portion was gigantic, I couldn’t even eat it all.

I ordered the same again when I went back with Dr HH (in fact, we basically went just so I could have another helping).  He went for the sea slices this time:  some lightly battered soy slice in a dilly sauce. This was a step up from the curry, though there was a bit too much dill.  The slices were nice and crispy though, and he enjoyed it as a whole. However, he says he’s not too fussed about going back as there isn’t much else on the menu that tempts him.

Something tells me we’ll be back for cake though.  Look at these beasts!  Dr HH had never tried black forest gateau before, so he had to give it a go and was suitably impressed. I just love carrot cake and rarely see it in Prague, so I pounced on this one.  It had four layers, and an icing carrot on top, which automatically makes it a winner in my eyes.  It was a beautiful sponge, and I would definitely recommend it.

We were also delighted to spot some cinnamon rolls on the buffet counter too, so we grabbed some to takeaway for breakfast the next day.  You can’t really tell from the picture but they were absolutely huge – and totally delicious!

For sweet treats, Loving Hut is highly recommended – for main dishes and the buffet, I’d say it’s always reliable, but rarely exceptional.

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Cookbook of the Month: Oh She Glows Every Day

Whenever I’m asked for advice on going vegan, the Oh She Glows book is one of my first recommendations.  I absolutely love it, and still turn to it for a number of the soups, breakfasts, and that life-affirming dip.  It was the book that inspired me to start my cookbook of the month posts, and I used it so much that it actually required two separate posts (here and here).  So it’s safe to say I had high expectations for the follow up, Oh She Glows Every Day.  And I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but it didn’t quite live up to its predecessor.

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I fell in love with the shakes in the original book, and used to make one each for Dr HH and I every day.  When we moved abroad I stopped doing that, but maybe I should restart.  The salted chocolate hemp shake for two instantly jumped out at me, and I’ll definitely make it again: it was so easy to drink, and had a lovely salty, chocolatey taste.

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Surprisingly, I wasn’t that inspired by the breakfast section, and I only made the one morning dish.  My roasted hazelnut almond granola clusters didn’t necessarily turn out as clusters, but they were tasty.  Roasting the nuts first gave them a lovely flavour.

Now that spring has sprung, I’m willing to introduce a few salads to the packed lunch rotation.  This protein power rainbow quinoa salad was tasty, though not particularly rainbow-y.   The dressing was a little too sharp for me, so I’d scale back the red wine vinegar a bit, but otherwise this was quick, easy and tasty.  I liked anything that brings chickpeas into my life.

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Onto the soups!  I made the creamy Thai carrot sweet potato soup with the last of my precious supply of vegan red curry paste. It was simple and tasty, and I loved the creaminess from the almond butter.  This is my kind of soup.

six-vegetable-and-cheese-soup

Trying to get all six vegetables for the six vegetable and cheese soup was no mean feat, considering I live next to the worst supermarket in the world. They have now added broccoli to the list of basic ingredients they don’t sell, and they’ve never stocked sweet potatoes either, so that’s two of the six that required a trip further afield.  It was worth a little effort: it was a thick, hearty and flavoursome soup.

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The metabolism-revving spicy cabbage soup was a strange choice for my first recipe from the book, because cabbage soup has quite the bad reputation.  Actually though, it was delicious!  There was plenty of flavour from the nine spice mix, and some good texture thanks to the lentils and potato chunks. Dr HH and I both thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The golden French lentil stew was a big hit!  There was a nice variety of vegetables, and the cashews added a good nutty taste.  We’ve already had this a couple of times.

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These days I’m eating more pasta at home, so I gave the fusilli lentil mushroom bolognese a go.  It was delicious!  I have a go-to bolognese recipe, but this one might replace it.  The flavours were great and the big mushroom slices added a lovely earthy quality.

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I’m a big fan of shepherd’s pie,and this recipe did not let me down.  I loved all the mushrooms and lentils, and will certainly make this again – possibly with a sweet potato topping.

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The sweet potato, chickpea and spinach coconut curry was very quick and easy to make, and is a good one to throw together in an emergency (unless, like me, you live near a supermarket that does not stock spinach). It turned out a touch too sweet for our tastes, but generally it was good.  I’d make it again, but tweak the seasoning somewhat.

comforting-red-lentil-and-chickpea-curry-2

I made the comforting red lentil and chickpea curry with tom yam paste rather than red curry paste, because that’s the only vegan one I had access to at the time.  It was delicious! Again, it’s easy, filling food.

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The sun dried tomato pasta was extremely easy, though of course I had to make it without spinach because, in case I haven’t mentioned it enough, my local supermarket is rubbish.  The creamy sauce is just blended cashews, garlic and sun dried tomatoes, which makes it extremely easy to throw together. Simple, familiar flavours.

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I really enjoyed the cookies I made from the first book, so I decided to give these flourless peanut butter cookies a go too.  I would strongly urge you to do the same:  they were quick and easy, and really delicious!  They were oaty, coconutty, peanutty and chocolatey. Those are some of my favourite adjectives.

There wasn’t a bad recipe in the ones I tried, and there are certainly things I’m adding to my regular rotation.  However, I wasn’t as inspired by the book as last time – I wasn’t really motivated to make any of the other dishes.  This is at least partly because it’s not always easy for me to get hold of the necessary ingredients here in Prague, so I had to rule some things out right from the start. I would still recommend this book, but it will always be in the shadow of the original for me.

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Vegan in Prague: Pastva

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The most famous sight in Prague is probably the Charles Bridge, the magnificent stone thoroughfare over the Vltava, marked with statues and constantly swarming with tourists.  Crossing that bridge always brings out conflicting emotions in me:  frustration at how slowly people walk, and delight at the ridiculous poses people strike for their selfies.  Perhaps because of that, I tend to think of crossing the river at all as stressful – even on public transport over one of the many other bridges.

That is the only possible reason that it took me over one year to finally get around to visiting Pastva, one of Prague’s multitude of all-vegan restaurants.  I’ve seen it recommended dozens of times, but on a Friday night Dr HH and I always struggle to motivate ourselves to venture across the river – even if it is only about 5 minutes longer than the trip into the city centre.

Pastva (1)

But we finally made it there, and I’m glad we did!  It’s a bright, breezy place with fast service and an English menu (hurray!).  Also, rather endearingly, there were several doggie bowls of water on the floor for furry friends (Czechs love taking their dogs everywhere with them, and it took me a while to get used to seeing them in restaurants.  Now I quite enjoy seeing them, as long as they keep their distance and don’t give me puppy-dog-eyes while I’m trying to enjoy some cake).

The menu changes quite regularly, and the online version didn’t quite match the one when we arrived.  There were so many good options, it was really tricky to narrow it down!  Eventually Dr HH and I both ordered burgers.  His was a Thai burger with peanut sauce dripping down it.  The patty was made of sweet potato and chickpea, and it was tasty but not really spicy, as you might expect from the “Thai” aspect.

Pastva (2)

Mine was this Latin burger, made with kidney beans, mushrooms and coriander.  The patty was really hearty and flavoursome, and the salsa on top was very tasty too.  Both burgers had really good buns, but were too huge and/or sloppy to lift up – yes, it was a knife-and-fork affair.  I was ashamed.  The sweet potato fries were ok, but as with all sweet potato fries, they just weren’t crispy.  Dr HH’s potato slices were better.

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Even though the burgers were very substantial, we decided that in the name of research we simply must press on and have some cake!  There were four or five to choose from in the display counter, and Dr HH opted for this strawberry and coconut one.  There was a layer of strawberry slices hiding in there, and it was a good sponge too.  He really enjoyed it.

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Mine wins though, if only on size!  The chocolate sponge was nice and not remotely dry, as some chocolate cakes can be.  The layer of chocolate cream and banana was fantastic, and my only complaint is that I wanted more of the nutty caramel on top!

I went back to Pastva with my mum during her visit in October to try out the lunchtime menu.  Like most Czech establishments, they have a set menu for lunch:  soup as an optional starter, and a choice of 2-3 main dishes, changing on a daily basis.  I find these things can be a bit hit and miss, but it really depends on whether or not you’re a picky eater.  Pastva was absolutely heaving when we visited, but we squeezed in and chose from the three mains.

pastva-beet-bourguinon

My mum really enjoyed the beet bourguinon.  She doesn’t like ‘meaty’ protein sources like tempeh and tofu, so this was a good option for her.  The flavours were good and earthy, she was delighted with the pickled onions on top, and it was a lovely autumnal dish.

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I love tofu, so I chose the ginger squash and smoked tofu with jasmine rice and peanuts.  The smoked tofu was nice, but otherwise it was quite bland, unfortunately – I was expecting a bit of a kick to it, but it was in desperate need of some seasoning.  I wish I had also ordered the bourguinon.

When we went back again in January, I had the same burger again while Dr HH tried a new addition to the menu:  the quinoa and kimchi burger.  It was unusual, but he really enjoyed it.  We both got regular chips on the side this time, which was an obvious improvement:  everybody favours a good old fashioned chip, surely?

I was instantly impressed with Pastva and am adding it to our regular rotation of restaurants – even if it is all the way across the river!

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MiniMoFo: The Pasta Factory, Manchester

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March’s MiniMoFo prompt is for filled or stuffed food.  It seems like the ideal time to share a meal that consisted of both sweet and savoury ravioli!

I don’t know about you, but for me the name The Pasta Factory conjures up a fast food place:  cheap, cheerful pasta dishes.  In reality though, it’s a lovely restaurant just outside the Northern Quarter in Manchester, with fresh, delicious Italian food and a very respectable vegan menu.  It’s also a bit pricey, so be aware of that before you go.  Also note that not all the dishes from the online menu are available on the day, so don’t pin your hopes too much on one specific dish in advance.

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There were vegan options on both the lunch menu (cheaper, but less exciting dishes – things like arrabbiata) and the main menu, which had three good options, and a veganisable starter platter.  I only had a main this time, and this mushroom ravioli jumped off the page.  It was absolute perfection:  earthy mushroom flavour, perfectly cooked pasta, truffle and oil for taste.

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Oh, and vegan parmesan as well!

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Good news on the dessert front:  there is a chocolate ravioli dish on the main menu which is vegan, and always a vegan sorbet on the board (it was coffee and amaretto when we visited).  You can never have too much ravioli, I always say, so I got this as well.  The chocolate pasta was nice, and there was a nice fig filling and coconut chips, but honestly all the flavours could have been stronger.  Still, this is a small complaint:  it was lovely.

I very rarely order pasta when I eat out, so a pasta restaurant was an unusual choice for me.  I think it’s hard to be bowled over by pasta, but this place really did the trick.  It was very impressive.

Even more impressive:  all the wine and beer was vegan.  Cheers to that!

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