Vegan in Manchester: Zad’s

Since Zad’s opened in Chorlton last summer, it has been the talk of Manchester’s vegan community. It’s one of those rare places that seems to be universally loved and not suffer any backlash (sometimes a vegan crowd can be a little hard to please). And it has truly earned its great reputation.

It serves pizzas, side dishes, and cupcakes, and has a few indoor and outdoor seats along with a delivery option if you’re fairly local. The pizza options are more exciting than just vegetables – this is definitely a menu created by and for vegans.

The Pig Save pizza is essentially a meat feast (smoky maple strips, hot dog, pepperoni,and smoked seitan), with some of the proceeds going to the Manchester Pig Save activist group. It is an astonishingly good pizza. The faux pepperoni slices and little hot dog chunks are really savoury and satisfying, and there’s no skimping on the cheese.

The hench herbivore comes with an extremely generous helping of veg, and plenty of olives for flavour. My mum doesn’t rate olives as a pizza topping and isn’t crazy about vegan cheese, yet she claims this is the best pizza she’s had this year.

This vegangains pizza is slightly less pleasing – the mushrooms and spinach are nice, but the tofu is a bit too bland. Some of the meatier, better seasoned toppings might jazz this up a bit.

The cheesy garlic bread is something else. It’s so cheesy. It’s so garlicky it will certainly keep the vampires at bay. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

The food at Zad’s is incredible, and it’s actually one of the few all-vegan establishments in Manchester. It’s not cheap, at £10 for a 12 inch pizza, but I definitely think it’s worth a splurge. And I can also confirm that cold leftovers the next day are still delicious, so go ahead and over-order.

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Vegan in Dublin: The Rolling Donut

Newsflash: I love donuts! I used to plan my holidays around where to find a good vegan croissant, but now I’m all about donuts. There’s so much scope for exciting flavours and toppings. As soon as I googled “vegan donuts Dublin”, I decided that we’d pop along to Rolling Donut for breakfast all three mornings we were in the city. As it turned out, one morning I was too ill to eat so we didn’t hit our target of trying all the vegan options, but we did pretty well.

There are two branches in the city centre, with about 8 daily vegan options – there were some slight variations the two mornings we visited, but they were largely the same. The branch we visited was right by the river, and was quite busy on our visits (unsurprisingly, as the window display is extremely tempting, and there’s quite a steady stream of tourists passing by). There are just a few stools at the bar inside, and four chairs out on the street, so you might have to grab something to go if you’re unlucky. They also have non-dairy milk for hot drinks, so you can make a proper breakfast of it too.

Dr HH and I both agreed that this coconut chocolate one was a winner – the chocolate coating was delightful, and they were very generous indeed with the coconut sprinkling.

Yes, there is a donut under all those toasted flaked almonds! This was the almond and vanilla, which was very sweet and delicious, with great texture and crunch from the nuts. This was Dr HH’s favourite.

I’m a big fan of a good lemon and poppy seed dessert, and this was no exception. The sharp lemony hit was nicely balanced by the sticky sweet vanilla icing.

We suspect that the same vanilla icing is used for most of the vegan donuts and topped with various different things – and as such, this pistachio and vanilla one was also a treat! Everybody loves a flash of green pistachio on their baked goods.

And the basic chocolate one, while less exciting without its coconut topping, was still really enjoyable, and perhaps a bit less messy to eat, which can be a good thing when you’re eating in a prime tourist spot.

There was a coffee and walnut donut we didn’t get round to trying, along with a raspberry jam one and at least one more that we can’t remember. Their non-vegan flavours were quite a bit more exciting (custard-filled, cream-filled, various exciting toppings), so it would be good to see them go a bit bolder with the vegan options too. But for now, these will do very nicely indeed!

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Truffle Pig Easter Box

As a child, I never received an Easter egg from my parents. They thought them a waste of money, and instead bought me a generous bar every year (and a book, just because). I firmly believe that this has (a) caused lasting trauma, and (b) made me extremely susceptible to buying myself ridiculous Easter treats to make up for my earlier neglect. Enter the Truffle Pig Easter box!

I have already mentioned my deep love of Truffle Pig, and I think I’ve converted my family into fans as well, after buying them treats for Christmas/Mother’s Day too. I love supporting independent businesses, and I know that these chocolates are great quality. My birthday coincided with Easter this year, so I asked my mum to treat me to this box of goodies (apparently indulgent treats are fine when they’re for my birthday rather than Easter). (Also, this is not a sponsored post, I just want to rave about how good it was.)

I’ve already mentioned the creme egg, which was also sold separately, and was really delicious. But what other delicacies were included?

Hot cross bun tiffin! It’s hard to improve on tiffin anyway – chocolate with crunchy bits of biscuit is already a winner. But the hot cross bun spices and the festive cross on top made this even better.

The truffles were also a hit, so rich and indulgent. They came in a variety of flavours, including peanut butter, coffee, and definitely some fruity ones. I may have been too busy scoffing them to properly pay attention. I’ve given my mum boxes of these truffles for both Christmas and Mother’s Day, and she has given them a glowing recommendation too!

As soon as we finished this milk chocolate caramel bar, we looked at the online shop to check they weren’t just an Easter box exclusive. I’m relieved to say they all in general stock, and they are sublime! This is in fact one of the best chocolate bars I’ve ever had.

These caramel eggs were small and generously filled with very runny caramel. You can see it just oozing out in the second picture! They were lovely.

The milk chocolate coated cinder toffee was always going to be a winner – I got Dr HH and my brother a bag of this each for Christmas, and they were both impressed. It was indeed like little (or not so little) bits of Crunchie bars.

And some hot chocolate mix! I’m a keen drinker of hot chocolate, and I mixed this up with some Oatly Barista (my absolutely favourite milk). It’s the best chocolate mix I’ve had, probably because it’s not very dark, and therefore quite sweet.

I think it’s probably just as well I don’t live in the UK, because Truffle Pig has just started a monthly subscription box and I’m not sure I’d be able to resist it! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, or want to convince some of your non-vegan friends that vegan chocolate is amazing, you need to check out the shop!

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Comfort Food

This month’s cookbook review is embarrassingly light. Between a holiday and entertaining visitors, I didn’t spend that much time in the kitchen, and the book I’d chosen, Vegan Comfort Food, wasn’t the most inspiring. I only managed six recipes from this book. Yes, go ahead and shame me. I deserve to be pelted with rotten tomatoes. But you might as well read this extremely brief review anyway while you’re here.

I had actually never heard of this book, but it was only a couple of pounds for the e-book, so I thought I might as well give it a whirl. But perhaps there’s a reason it was being sold so cheaply. This is quite a confusing book. There is a recipe in it for burgers, and the ingredients list calls for shop-bought chicken patties, mayo, and bacon bits, plus hot sauce, burger buns, tomato and lettuce. Who needs a recipe for assembling a frozen burger?! Yet there are also recipes for homemade seitan, so I’m not entirely sure who the book is aimed at.

Here is the handful of recipes I tried.

The first recipe I tried was for these easy breakfast biscuits, which remained very pale, flat, and a bit doughy. I’m no biscuit expert, but I think something definitely wrong. The taste was fine, but I was expecting something better in terms of appearance and texture.

I’m slowly coming round to the idea of biscuits and gravy, so I also made the sage gravy to accompany them. This was a total success – really easy, and really delicious. I’d happily make the gravy again, though I might stick to a tried and tested biscuit recipe instead.

While I am still a bit suspicious of biscuits and gravy, I have no such qualms when it comes to tofu scramble – I’m willing to try any recipe! I was impressed by the paprika, nooch, and turmeric in this one, but it needed a bit more. I livened it up by adding some smoked tofu to the mix, and using sun-dried tomatoes instead of regular ones. It was a solid base recipe though, and easily tinkered with.

The coconut corn chowder didn’t look particularly photogenic, and it didn’t have any herbs or spices, which seemed like an oversight. Again, it was a good base recipe, and easily livened up with some chilli flakes. I think it was necessary to have  something a bit more fierce to balance out the sweetness of the coconut milk. The recipe includes some sun-dried tomatoes, and I heartily approve of their inclusion.

I made the creamy black bean soup using kidney beans instead of black ones due to availability, but no other changes this time. It was a very quick and easy soup, and a pretty tasty one too – it won’t go down in history as one of the great soups, but it was a solid lunch.

In the end I only made one recipe from the mains section. There’s a recipe for fettucine alfredo two ways – I made sauce one, which is a simple blitzing of a handful of ingredients. This is a great emergency meal option. The sauce really packed a punch when it was freshly blitzed, but when it was warmed through with the pasta it lost a bit of its magic, so I’d probably increase the seasoning a bit next time. I’ll happily have this again.

And that is the sum of my efforts in April. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book, because I’m just not sure who the intended audience is. There were some appetising sounding recipes, but some needed specialised ingredients and others were just a matter of assembling shop-bought products. If you’ve had more luck with this book, I’d love to hear about it!

And I solemnly swear I will post a more thorough review of next month’s book!

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Vegan in Dublin: Sova Food Vegan Butcher

Usually I plan my holidays based on the vegan options, but my Easter trip to Dublin was a rare occasion when there was a different main attraction: it was the only Arcade Fire date that fit with Dr HH’s school holidays. (Of course, they announced a show in Prague several months later, but at least we got a good holiday out of it.) The  second attraction, of course, was Sova Food Vegan Butcher, whose dishes I had been enjoying on Instagram for quite some time.

The menu has big hearty dishes, along with some more fine dining elements, like these scallops. As a keen Masterchef viewer, I’m always on the lookout for a vegan version of scallops, but this was only the second time I’d found them.

They were good! The scallop itself was a good juicy bit of mushroom, sitting on a potato cake and topped with kelp caviar. The black pudding was delicious (I’m crazy about vegan black pudding), and the little bits of pickled cauliflower were a real treat. Everything was so well seasoned, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

Dr HH had to admit that my starter comfortably won: his was these polenta and chickpea balls in a creamy sauce, accompanied by a sourdough crostini.  He felt that the balls were less exciting and flavoursome than falafel would have been.

We both felt like we won the main courses though, which is always a good sign. There were a lot of great choices, but Dr HH eventually narrowed it down to the chicken dish. The seitan chicken was rolled up with a delicious herby stuffing, and he loved the overall meatiness of it. The accompaniments (sweet potato puree, gravy, asparagus, broccoli, and rocket salad) were all solid but not mind-blowing: the chicken itself was really the star of the show.

 

I ordered the soy schnitzel, and this was not what I expected it to look like!Goodness me! There were four pieces of the schnitzel, which was a really tender meat in a light, herby batter – just like Dr HH, I found the meat to be the star of the show, which seems apt for a place with”butcher” in the title. The spiral of potato is apparently called duchess potatoes, and it was the most fun way I’ve ever been served spuds. There were various mushrooms and broad beans underneath the schnitzel, which were nice, but I only had eyes for the meat and potatoes! And there was also a pot of tartare sauce, which is probably necessary for such a dry dish – personally, I can’t stand the stuff though.

We were pretty well fed by this point, but we thought we might as well have a pud. There were only two options, and we both thought the strawberry cheesecake sounded a bit dull, so we got the alternative, which was a coconut shortbread which a quenelle (more Masterchef points) of chocolate avocado mousse, adorned with orange jelly, a tart raspberry coulis, and candied walnuts. It was indulgent without being too heavy, and we both loved it. It was €25 each for three courses, which we felt was pretty decent value for money. We left feeling pleasantly full, and really enjoyed the creative, ambitious menu and well-seasoned dishes.

I had also been looking forward to returning a couple of days later for Saturday brunch, but I felt so ill I almost didn’t make it. A short sit in the fresh air at nearby St Stephen’s Green restored me a bit, but I couldn’t really make the most of the menu.

I’d planned on trying something more exciting, but could only manage the mac and cheese in the end. Besides that hideous pile of rocket on top, it was lovely, and was perfect comfort food. Smooth, creamy, and medicinal – what higher praise could there be?

So, should you go to Dublin just to visit this place? Quite frankly, yes!

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Vegan in Liverpool: Afternoon Tea at Jam

Imagine you’re going for afternoon tea. You’ve been promised a vegan macaron. You’re envisioning a classy affair.

You open the door to find ‘Africa’ by Toto playing full blast, hazy purple lighting, a hen do in full swing, and not a macaron in sight. It’s safe to say my trip to Jam was not exactly what I was expecting, but it did manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

I heard about Jam in this article about vegan afternoon tea options in Liverpool. I couldn’t find the word ‘vegan’ anywhere on their website, but when I emailed an enquiry I was sent a vegan afternoon tea menu which featured several kinds of sandwiches, a scone each, and a cake plate of chocolate tart, Victoria sponge, chocolate flapjack, and macaron. I was sold.

But even though I booked over a week in advance, it was not even close to what we were served.

We had two kinds of sandwiches: avocado and veg, and hummus and veg. The hummus was really good, and it made a pleasant change to have the sandwiches served on baguette rather than sliced bread – these two factors elevated these from fairly run-of-the-mill vegan afternoon tea fare.

As for the scones…no, there’s no mistaking these for scones. They were clearly lemon drizzle cakes. The texture was a little spoiled by too much moisture, but they were certainly lemony enough.

And as for the cakes, we could be generous and call this a slight twist on the Victoria sponge: a light cake with raspberries and a vanilla icing on top. It was a little dry, but otherwise nice. The highlight of the whole tea was the hazelnut sponge with chocolate topping. The topping was still sticky and gooey (they might have been freshly made for us), and the sponge was really light and delicious. I could have eaten ten more of these!

Quite a mixed bag, in general – we were a little disheartened on arrival to find it was not a classy restaurant and there were no macarons, but the hummus, bread,and chocolate cake went quite some way to salvaging it. At £17 a head, I’d say this was quite steep for what we got and it wouldn’t be my first choice in Liverpool (hello, Tea Parlour) – but if you’re being dragged along on a hen do, take heart that you’ll be well looked after. Alternatively, if you like purple lighting and listening to full-blast bangers while you eat, book your table right away!

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Vegan Creme Eggs

Why are Creme Eggs so irresistible? Ok, it’s pretty obviously because of all the sugar. But nothing compares. Back when I became vegan in 2014, I was giddy to spot a vegan creme egg at Brighton VegFest. Now there are multiple versions to choose from! This year I decided to treat myself to a few different ones and see how they compared. It’s a tough old job, but someone’s got to do it! I found all three varieties very similar in terms of the fondant (and general priciness), but there were definite chocolatey differences.

Considerit

This is the same creme egg I tried back when I first went vegan, made by Considerit and available online from The Vegan Kind, amongst other places. It’s a shame that there’s a layer of chocolate in the middle, making it different from the traditional version – it’s essentially two halves glued together. The chocolate, while dark, is surprisingly sweet, and good and thin. Despite that central barrier, it’s a nice egg.

Truffle Pig

I’m a huge fan of this Sheffield-based chocolatier, and and I was delighted to see that she had made some creme egg halves.

No sooner had I ordered some halves than individual, complete eggs became available too. The complete eggs did not have the chocolate layer down the middle, which was a step up from Considerit. The chocolate was a bit darker than I would have liked – I wanted proper milk chocolate!

Vegan Choc Shop

This independent vegan chocolatier is new to me, but I’m glad I stumbled across them on Instagram. They were selling boxes of 6 creme eggs for £15 (flavoured cremes were also available, but I went traditional) – not cheap by any means. I loved the presentation, with the cardboard egg box and pretty foil wrapping. I was a bit disappointed to see that they were only halves, but make no mistake, they were huge! The chocolate was milkier on these (57% dark anyway), which was definitely a good thing, but it was very thick, making it quite different from the original Creme Egg – but that’s not really the kind of thing I want to complain about!

 

In short, there is no vegan creme egg which perfectly replicates the milky one made by Cadbury’s, but there are solid options nevertheless. I think we could argue that the dark chocolate is more sophisticated and balances out the sweetness of the fondant filling for the adult palate, but personally I have sweet tooth enough for the original. I was initially planning on ranking these different ones, but I would genuinely recommend them all. The Choc Shop ones would make the nicest gift, but to be honest I’d scoff the lot of them again! Who knows what new options will pop up next year?!

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