Vegan in London: Young Vegans

After two weeks in England with a delightful heatwave and a party atmosphere at the prospect of football finally coming home (alas, it was not to be), it is with a heavy heart that I must return to work in Prague this morning. A heavy heart, and a heavy belly, because I was in England to eat. And this quintessentially British dish seems like a good point to start recounting my holiday culinary adventures.

Young Vegans is a pie and mash shop at the Camden Lock Market. The basic menu is pie with mash/fries and gravy for £7, with various side dishes available too for a bit more money (peas, cheesy fries, etc). There were about 5 pie options when we visited, and it was quite tricky to narrow it down, but somehow we did it.

I got the chicken katsu curry pie with fries, because how often do you get a vegan chicken katsu pie?! It was a wonderful concoction: a really tasty sauce with lovely, tender, huge chunks of chicken. The pastry was great, and it was quite the generous portion. I was also pleased to note that the fries were in fact chips, and quite delicious!

Dr HH opted for the steak and ale pie, which had a really rich sauce, and good chunks of meat. As you can see, he also got the gravy, which he deemed very good (I wasn’t sure a traditional gravy would go with katsu curry, hence I skipped it). He upgraded to two sides: cheesy chips, and mac and cheese. The cheesy chips were good, and the mac and cheese  was nice but a tiny bit chalky in texture. Thee bacon crumble bits were spectacular though!

All in all, it was filling, friendly, and fantastic! As it’s at the market, seating can be an issue – there were a few indoor stools, and outdoor benches, besides the general market seating, which can fill up quickly. Don’t let that deter you though, even if you have to stand up it’s worth a visit! When we were in they had two sweet pies/tarts as well…if only we’d had room!

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MiniMoFo: Top 5 Desserts

This month’s MiniMoFo is all about desserts, and inspired a lengthy discussion between Dr HH and me about the best 5 we’ve ever been served. Here are our conclusions!

1.Tresor, Oh La La (Berlin)

Ah, the tresor. We still reminisce about these on a weekly basis, long after this little cafe closed down. Recently in a moment of stupidity, I asked: “Did the tresor contain any sponge?” Dr HH has barely stopped laughing since. He summed up this magnificent dessert as: “A big rolo with a hazelnut in the middle,  covered in fancy cream.”

 

2.Chocolate orange, The Allotment (Stockport)

Like most British people, I find chocolate orange to be one of the defining flavour combinations of the festive season. So this dessert from The Allotment’s Christmas menu was extra special. The orange sorbet was delicious, the honeycomb and nougat were exciting treats, and the chocolate truffle was sublime.

 

3.Sticky toffee pudding, Teatime Collective (Manchester)

This is what is known as a proper pud. It’s supremely comforting, and stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth delicious. I’m devastated that this place has closed down its cafe, but looking forward to doing some thorough research at their cake counter in central Manchester.

 

4.Salted chocolate tart, Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen (Bath)

We planned an overnight stay in Bath just so I could try this dessert, and it was definitely worth it! It was a rich tart with a crumbly base and, yes, a dollop of peanut butter sorbet. And when I say dollop, I of course mean “quenelle” – that’s how fancy this was.

 

5.Snap, Crackle, Choc, Terre a Terre (Brighton)

We had this dessert just last week, and it has already stormed its way into the top five! The more discerning reader may have picked up on my love of extremely decadent, rich, chocolate desserts, and this one was no exception. The chocolate mousse was outrageously good, and the shortbread crumbs, mini meringues, orange sorbet, and chocolate shards were beautiful additions.

 

Help me plan my next holiday, tell me where you found your top desserts!

 

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Vegan in Bamberg: Zapfhahn

On our recent trip to Nuremberg, I was agonising over whether to take a day trip to Bamberg or Regensburg. Unable to decide after some simple Googling (and Happy Cow-ing), we asked our Airbnb host for an opinion. We might as well have asked her to choose between her two children: she just couldn’t decide either. Finally, based on the prettiness of the top pics on Google Images, we went with Bamberg.

Look how pretty! It’s a small, picturesque town that, to a British person, is just exquisitely European. There’s not a lot to do, of course, so we essentially just wandered around sighing over how lovely everything was.

The only all-vegan listing on Happy Cow is for a food truck that was nowhere to be found when we were there. There are a few vegetarian establishments, along with a handful of omni places with vegan options, including Zapfhahn.

Zapfhahn is a burger place really close to the scenic centre where the bridges and pretty buildings are, so it’s ideal for a stop when you’re seeing the sights. And there’s even a nice courtyard so you can enjoy the sun while you eat! I had my heart set on their jack fruit burger, so imagine my devastation on finding that it was only available in the evening. At lunch time there was no vegan option listed, but the waiter offered me the old fashioned burger using their vegan beany patty instead. He also asked how I wanted it cooking, which must have been habit because nobody has ever asked me that before! (I went for medium.)

It certainly wasn’t medium in size, it was a veritable beast! It was tasty, especially with the spicy salsa as well. Texture wise, it could have been more consistent -the edges were quite crisp, while the centre was rather soft and mushy. The accompanying rosemary chips were beautifully seasoned, and I would have happily scoffed another portion were I not so stuffed from the burger.

It was a little pricey, but that’s probably to be expected given its location and the fact that a lot of tourists were stopping in. It was a bit of a shame not to have something traditionally German in such a quaint and charming little town, but really, who can say no to burger and chips?!

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Cookbook of the Month: Appetite for Reduction Part Two

As I mentioned last month, I’ve really enjoyed cooking my way through Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction. It’s pitched as a healthy eating book, but is also fine if, like me, you’re not dieting. I did kind of stumble into an accidentally healthier month than expected, thanks to a step-counting fitness challenge at work. That combined with these vegetable-based dishes made me feel very smug indeed!

Let’s start with salad, then! I found the quinoa salad with black beans and toasted cumin seeds a little dull, actually – the only real seasoning was the cumin seeds, and it needed a bit more for me. I think we ended up throwing in some smoked tofu, which helped liven things up. Generally, I enjoyed the salads in the book, but this one fell flat.

I had really high hopes for the cauliflower pesto soup, but it turned out tasting quite bitter – I think this is down to the cauliflower, as there’s no reason anything else should have had that effect. It’s a great idea for a recipe, but just didn’t quite work.

I was very excited to try the Manhattan glam chowder, as the glam chowder from Isa Does It is one of my all-time favourite recipes. Apparently the New England version from that recipe is cream-based, and this Manhattan one is tomato-based. I’m afraid New England comfortably wins this battle. The flavours here were nice, but it was kind of annoying knowing how much better it would be with some cashew cream thrown in too. Still, I’m glad to know the difference.

I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the ceci-roasted red pepper soup. It was possibly the best recipe this month! Roasting a pepper always elevates a dish, and that was certainly the case here. The soup is only partially-blitzed, meaning that it’s quite thick and chunky- the perfect texture, to accompany the perfect taste.

If you feel like getting a stew on, this eggplant provencal is a fine place to start. Classic flavours, lots of veg, hearty red lentils, a splash of red wine…simple and very effective.

The Moroccan chickpeas and zucchini was such a simple recipe, really easy to throw together and nicely seasoned. It’s not life-changing (and not as good as Simon Rimmer’s Moroccan spaghetti), but it was very pleasant.

I have a go-to chilli recipe, but still almost always try one from whichever cookbook I’m using. Here I gave the classic black bean and veggie chilli a go, using kidney beans instead of black beans because that’s just how life is in Prague. Truthfully, I don’t like a chilli to be too vegetabley, so this will not topple my favourite recipe, but it was still a hearty, well-seasoned chilli.

The 2nd avenue vegetable korma turned out a bit drier than I’d expect a proper creamy korma to be, and I’d probably increase the spices next time too. But it was a nice mild sauce, with a good array of vegetables, and it was another one of those one-pot dishes that was easy to throw together.

 

One of the great things about this book is that it’s quite light on the more difficult to track down items that can deter people from trying vegan recipes. There’s lots of veg, beans, and grains, and they’re easy to pick up for many people. So as well as being a good book for vegans, I think non-vegans looking to get more veg in their diet would also enjoy it and find it accessible.

The lack of pictures (besides a few pages in the middle) is always disappointing, but should not deter you from the exciting range of recipes. Even after two months, I’ve barely made a dent in the book – there’s plenty of choice.

As with all of Isa’s books, there’s certainly no harm in adding this to your collection!

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Vegan in London: Temple of Camden

Despite being in the Czech Republic for almost three years, I am still yet to discover much of a vegan community here. In the UK there are millions of social media feeds sharing accidentally-vegan finds, new products hitting supermarkets, and sharing top tips and new eateries. All of these things make me yearn to be back in the UK, and ensure that I always have a massive to-do list (or rather, to-eat list) whenever I pop back.

Hence Temple of Camden has been on my radar for a while, and I was very excited to finally get to visit in June. I assume it’s like a vegan KFC, but I’ve never been to a KFC, so I’m not entirely sure if that’s a fair comparison. Basically, the menu is heavy on fried (mock) chicken – burger, wings, and so on. I ordered the popcorn chicken, and got a lot more than I was expecting! The texture of these little bites was perfect, and the coating was beautifully seasoned and really crispy. I can’t even remember the last time I had anything like this, and would certainly recommend it.

Despite the chicken focus, it was actually the mac and cheese I was most excited about (it’s an all vegan establishment, so nothing to worry about). Sure enough, it was even better than the chicken! The cheese sauce was delicious, and whatever that white sauce is, it was also very much appreciated. The crumbly bits on top were flavoursome and added a wonderful crunchy texture. You simply must try it!

I was so stuffed, I couldn’t even manage one of the baked goods from the extremely tempting cake counter. But fear not, I got a couple to take away! The pain au chocolat was actually a little disappointing -it was quite tough to chomp through, and wasn’t that great eaten cold. I’m sure a little heating would have helped the chocolate to melt a bit and made the whole thing better.

No complaints about the brownie though! It’s kind of misshapen in this picture because it basically melted in my bag (my bag still smells deliciously chocolatey, so I’m not complaining). It is the most intensely chocolatey and gooiest brownie I have ever had. Also, it’s insanely filling – I had this for elevenses, and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. That could be a good thing if you’re trying to save pennies, but terrible if, like me, your goal is to cram as much food as possible in during a trip to London!

So, thank you to the UK vegan community for keeping me posted on this exciting new place! I’m back in London in a couple of weeks, and have a growing list of more places to try!

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Vegan in London: Breakfast Around Brick Lane

I once overheard some terrible American backpackers on the tram in Prague discussing their recent European adventures thus:

A: I’m still mad we didn’t go to McDonald’s in London.

B: Hey, I wanted to go! Nobody goes to London for the food.

Well, let me tell you that every vegan goes to London for the food! I always agonise over how to squeeze as much food as possible into a short stay in the capital, and I have to say that I was very pleased with my most recent effort.

In May, Dr HH and I popped over to London to see the wonderful Trevor Noah on one of his few European dates. We filled in the rest of our time with food! We were staying near Brick Lane, which is a great area for vegans, and we found plenty of culinary delights there – including these two convenient spots for breakfast.

Regular readers will not be surprised to see this picture. Of course I found vegan donuts! These were from Crosstown Doughnuts, which has several locations in the city. This one was a nice little cafe with a reasonable amount of seating. The vegan options were clearly labelled, and there were some very exciting flavours. I love donuts with a custardy, creamy centre, so I was delighted with this coconut and lime with spirulina dough. The tropical flavours were lovely, and I enjoyed the texture of the crumb on top.

Dr HH was also impressed with his lemon-thyme with beetroot dough. Again, it was a great flavour combination, and the coloured dough was a fun twist. There are quite a few other flavours, so we’re keen to get back  and try some more – the dark chocolate truffle sounds right up my street!

Another breakfast option is Canvas Cafe, an all-vegan cafe and community centre which is apparently famous for its freakshakes, but we didn’t have chance to indulge in those. Not that it was an indulgence-free visit, though: I’m powerless to resist a French toast, and this one certainly exceeded my expectations! The slabs of homemade sourdough were about ten times bigger than I was expecting, and they  were sweet and delicious.

Dr HH kept it savoury, as is his wont, with the Full English. As you can see, he was also treated to some sourdough. He found two elements of the breakfast quite bland and disappointing: the scramble, which needed seasoning, and the spinach, which had just been wilted – he would have preferred it sauteed with garlic. However, he raved about the sage sausages, well-seasoned, spicy beans, and especially the roast potatoes.

This is another place we’d be happy to return to – ideally, with enough room for a freakshake too! I’ve never had one, but I assume they’re an acceptable breakfast dish?

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Vegan in Nuremberg: The Green

I don’t think I ever feel fancier than when I’m eating an acai bowl for breakfast. I do it rarely (because truthfully, I’m much happier eating a gigantic baked good for breakfast), but this weekend was one of those occasions. It sounds terribly sophisticated (to my unsophisticated ears) to say that I went for a weekend away and had an acai bowl for breakfast.

Nuremberg is just three and a half hours and €15 away from Prague by coach, so we decided to give it a whirl rather than heading to Berlin for the squillionth time. As well as some interesting historical sites and some charming, picturesque sights, Nuremberg also has some solid vegan options. As soon as I perused the options on Happy Cow, I singled out The Green as our number one breakfast spot.

It’s an all vegan cafe that specialises in smoothies. It’s simply and stylishly decorated, and the menu is quite healthy. They serve a few sandwiches and lunch options later in the day, but the breakfasts appear to be the star of the show. Alongside a savoury or sweet breakfast plate (breads, spreads, and accompaniments), there are a few other options like banana toast, muesli, and, of course, acai bowls.

We forked out €10.50 each for a premium acai bowl. This takes the regular acai bowl (which is topped with fresh fruit, chia seeds, and coconut) and adds granola, plus one addition to the smoothie element (I went for baobab) and three additional toppings (I chose mixed nuts, goji berries, and dried apricots). As you can see, they were quite stingy with the nuts, which is a shame because the crunchy nuts and granola were my favourite parts. It was a tasty and fresh bowl, and set me up nicely for the day…but it wasn’t cold at all. All the acai bowls I’ve had in the past have been cold, presumably from frozen bananas, but this was room temp, which was quite surprising. I’m still quite the acai bowl novice though, so maybe this is the done thing. We didn’t say anything for fear we’d look like someone complaining that their gazpacho soup is too cold.

The hot drinks were definitely the right temperature, though! Dr HH got the cashew cappuccino, to keep the fanciness going. And I could hardly let him outdo me, so I paid the premium (again) and got my chai latte with cashew milk as well. I loved the fact that my drink came with a strainer, and the little jug was packed full of cloves and cardamom – the flavours really came through. I love a cashew milk hot chocolate, but we didn’t find the milk as noticeable in these drinks, which is a shame, given the price.

Overall it was a nice breakfast, and we loved the fanciness that it encompassed, but it was very steep for, essentially, a bowl of fruit. Perhaps it’s only for those who feel that dropping almost €30 on breakfast is the height of sophistication!

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