Cookbook of the Month: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking (Part One)

Choco Pancakes (6)

(In August I made nothing more taxing in the kitchen than a cup of tea!  Dr HH took over the cooking – and now he is taking over the blog as well.  He put me to shame by cooking so much that we need two posts to cover it all, so the review will continue next week.)

Hello! Dr HH here. Have you missed me? Probably not, as Ms HH keeps the good stuff coming all year round, but this month she returned to work whilst I was still enjoying summer holidays.  This led to me being tasked with the cooking so I’ll be providing the cookbook of the month write up.

Ms HH chose Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking.  The Minimalist Baker started out (and continues) as a blog and has been so wildly successful that a cookbook has come from it.  Each of the recipes fits at least one of the three following criteria: 30 minutes or less, 10 ingredients or less (excuse the terrible grammar here, it is lifted directly from the book) or 1 bowl.  I guess Ms HH figured that the recipes shouldn’t be too taxing for simple old Dr HH.

The book is handily split into sections and I’ll talk you through them all as I go.  Where better to start than breakfast?

Choco Pancakes (3)

When starting with breakfast, who could look further than pancakes?  The Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Waffles Pancakes, to be precise. The recipe is for waffles, but I just used regular plain flour and thinned out the batter a little to made pancakes;  delicious, rich, decadent chocolate pancakes.  WIth cocoa powder and chopped chocolate in the batter, these pancakes were glorious.  They were a bit rich so it may have been a good idea to serve them with some fruit along with syrup.  The recipe called for me to curdle my almond milk before adding it to the batter but I have no idea why.  Answers on a postcard please.

Minimalist Baker Burrito (2)

The Vegan Breakfast Burrito is the kind of thing I love, lots of different little elements that can be combined as one sees fit.  There were beans, avocado ‘slaw, delicious little crunchy bits of potato, rice and some more avocado slices for good measure.  The book does suggest throwing some salsa into the mix too as an optional ingredient and I feel the burrito needs it.  On the first day, we had the burritos without salsa and the main flavour coming through was lime from the ‘slaw, there weren’t any really great deep Mexican flavours that I expect from my burrito.  The next day I fried up the remaining beans with some onion, garlic, chilli, tomato and spices and it gave the dish a much needed lift.  I feel this recipe suffers a bit trying to fit the minimalist gimmick, there’s the salsa shortcut rather than cooking the beans well like in Thug Kitchen.

Minimalist Baker Eggless Benedict (4)

The Savoury Eggless Benedict is essentially a fancy avocado on toast.  The recipe included a slice of fried tomato, but neither of us is particularly keen on big slices of tomato, raw or cooked, so I decided to just leave that out.  I have no idea what Hollandaise sauce is supposed to taste like so I can’t comment on how authentic it was but I can say that this faux sauce (Hollanain’t!) was delicious.  It was thick and creamy.  Tahini is suggested as an optional ingredient, but I think that the sesame flavour coming through was a real highlight of the sauce and would strongly recommend adding it.  

Minimalist Baker Mango Lassi Pop

The Mango Coconut Lassi is in as a breakfast, but I decided to freeze them into little ice pops and what a great idea that was.  The pops were lovely and creamy but perhaps would have been better if I’d left some mango chunks in there.  This was a great treat on a hot summer day.

Minimalist Baker Cherry Pops

There are also the Cherry Chia Lassi Pops which are in the dessert section but I figured I’d throw them together with the previous recipes.  These weren’t quite as creamy but i did keep some giant cherry chunks in and they were great.

Granola Bars (4)

The Almond Butter + Jelly Granola Bars were wonderful sticky, sweet snacks.  I really enjoyed the extra flavour from roasting the oats and nuts rather than putting them in raw.  I used cranberries as my dried fruit of choice because cranberries are the king of dried fruit.

Granola from book (2)

Most of my breakfast efforts went into making granola.  My first attempt at granola was the Homemade Hippie Cereal.  This was one of the first things I made from this book and a toasted mixture of nuts and syrup is meant to be mixed with puffed rice to make a breakfast cereal.  I quickly scanned the recipe and saw a sentence that said it could be served as granola without the puffed rice.  It eventually dawned on me that a bowl of crunchy sweet nuts may not have stretched to too many breakfast portions so I had to do some freewheeling.  I added 3 cups of oats and various quantities of extra sticky ingredients and came out with something reasonably close to granola.  It didn’t stick together too much and tasted a bit too sweet.  The lesson here is that when freewheeling, perfect results are not guaranteed.

Minimalist Baker Choco Granola

There was one granola recipe in the book but now I had a taste for it, so I did a little digging into the blog and found a plethora of granola recipes to choose from.  The Almond Joy Granola was incredible! Admittedly it was slightly more walnut joy as I had just used most of my almonds in the above granola bar recipe.  The mix of coconut and chocolate with a saltiness from almond butter made a true breakfast delight.  I threw in half the chocolate whilst everything was still warm so it melted into the clusters.  I was starting to get the hang of this granola lark.

gingerbread granola (1)

The Gingerbread Granola had a really Christmassy feel to it.  The combination of molasses, ginger and cinnamon gave this a lovely warmth.  I managed to make giant oat clusters that would be worthy of presenting to the granola gods as breakfast.   The downside of using molasses was that everything was brown from the start so it was a little harder to tell if things were burnt or not.

Minimalist Baker Quinoa Granola

The Quinoa Granola was made up of really good crunchy nutty clusters.  The quinoa gave a bit of a different texture and I threw in a load of cranberries at the end to add a bit of a different texture to it.  This granola was a bit light on oats and I tend to prefer ones with more oats in them.

Cinnamon Snails

The Cinnamon Snails should have been pretty easy to make.  It turns out that even after spending more than 10 years as a practical chemist I still sometimes struggle to follow a recipe.  This recipe from the blog required 1 cup of almond milk but I had it in my head that I needed 2.  I was pretty puzzled when, after adding the required amount of flour, I still had a sticky mess in the bowl.  After checking the recipe again I saw the problem and managed to get back on course, and what a course it was!  These cinnamon snails were a gloriously sticky and sweet breakfast treat.  My error following the recipe may have left me flummoxed and led to an increase in the prep time, but it did also result in double the quantity of snails.

The second section of the book is appetizers + sides. I generally dipped into this section for lunches.  Regular readers know that Ms HH values good soups in a book, so I made sure to test out a few of the recipes.

Brocolli soup (1)

The Creamy Broccoli + “Cheddar” Soup was thick and flavoursome.  There was lots of nooch in here to give it that savoury cheesy flavour and there was a nice bit of sweetness coming from the butternut squash and maple syrup.  It was a really nice vibrant colour and I didn’t completely blitz it, so there was still some good chunks of broccoli and squash in there.

Minimalist Baker Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup (1)

The Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup was full of great flavours and had some good heat from the red curry paste.  The coconut milk provided some nice balance and I opted against adding any maple syrup as I figured the coconut milk would be sweet enough.  The soup was light on vegetables though, I added about 5 times the recommended number of mushrooms and double the carrots, but I still think it could have used more vegetables.  For the second serving I threw in lots of rice noodles and it unsurprisngly made a tasty noodle dish too.

Minimalist Baker Tomato Soup (1)

I liked how easy the recipe for the Creamy Tomato + Herb Bisque was. It was pretty much a case of chuck stuff in the pot, blend it and then let it simmer.  No time consuming chopping or frying to be seen.  I was a little wary about throwing coconut milk into my tomato soup but it was fine, adding creaminess without adding a coconutty taste.  I let it simmer for more than an hour (20 minutes was the minimum recommended time) and I ended up with a thick, creamy soup that was packed full of flavour from dill and chilli.  

Sconnies (1)

We had this soup with Garlic “Cheddar” Herb Biscuits and they were incredible!  They were like little savoury scones that were very easy to make and packed full of great savoury flavours from the chives and nooch.

carrot + lentil soup (2)

The Simple Curried Carrot + Lentil Soup is actually from the mains section but everybody knows that soups are for lunch.  The recipe recommends using green curry paste but I just used the red curry paste that I already had.  I definitely recommend partially blending the soup as it all seemed a bit watery before that.  It was a really flavoursome soup, most of it comes from the curry so make sure you like your curry paste.

Beetroot and Orange salad (3)

I threw together the Beet, Orange + Walnut Salad with Lemon  Tahini dressing for a lunch one day.  I was mildly concerned when I tried the dressing on it’s own and it seemed a little bitter but it was fine when combined with the sweetness of the beetroot and orange.  There was a bit too much orange in the salad.  The recipe has an equal amount of beetroot and orange and it would probably be better with less orange.  The walnuts added some nice crunch and it was worth making for the visual experience.

Minimalist Baker Cheesy Potatoes (1)

I had spied the Garlic Scalloped Potatoes within moments of looking at this cookbook and knew I had to make them.  I was struggling to figure out what to pair them with and was wondering if I could justify just eating a tray of cheesy potatoes for tea.  I ended up serving them with a Linda McCartney pie and some broccoli. The potatoes were fantastic, it was a great creamy sauce that was bursting with cheesy flavour from all the nooch.  I baked them for about an hour and they were a bit underdone for my liking so I’d recommend baking them for longer.

stuffed peppers (2)
I made this Easy Vegan Fried Rice from the blog and used it as the filling in some stuffed peppers.  I did things a little differently: the book and the blog both suggest baking the tofu without adding any oil or seasoning to it and then tossing it in a marinade.  I didn’t want to take any chances with my tofu not being sufficiently flavoursome so I marinated mine before baking.  Little bits of the marinade charred as the tofu baked and I thought it added great depth to the flavour.

That’s all of the breakfasts and lighter meal – come back next week for some mains and desserts!

Posted in Cookbooks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Vegan in Manchester: Kosmonaut

Kosmonaut (1)

Sunday roast for only £9?!  Yes please!

There are a few places in Manchester that offer a veganised traditional Sunday dinner, but this one in the Northern Quarter is the only one I’ve tried.  And it’s a good ‘un!

The main attraction is, of course, the stuffed aubergine, which was visually appealing as well as delicious.  The three falafel balls were tasty, but a bit out of place – I had to eat them before pouring the gravy on.  The potato and carrots were really good as well, and as a whole I thought this was good value for money, and a very tempting plate which didn’t look like a poor substitute for the meaty version.  Actually, Kosmonaut is the perfect venue if you’re in a mixed group as it caters for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

Kosmonaut (2)

And there was even a vegan dessert just sitting on the bar waiting for me!  They had three different kinds of baked goods, and one of them was this vegan brownie with Biscoff swirl.  I’ve made something similar myself before, and it’s such a good combination.  It was lovely!  (It looks a bit lost on that big plate, though.  Maybe I should have had two?)

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vegan in Barcelona (Part Two)

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (1)

Continuing our adventures in Barcelona:  after paying some rather steep prices for tapas, we finally got some good value for money at Vegetart.

Barcelona Vegetart (1)

It’s a nice little takeaway deli place.  When we visited, they were stocked up with burgers, hummus, lentil dishes and cakes.  I had read somewhere that they do excellent tortilla, but they didn’t have any mid-afternoon when we visited.

Barcelona Vegetart (2)

Barcelona Vegetart (3)

We got a little picnic to take to Parc Guell later that day (top tip:  book your tickets for the Parc.  We saw lots of people turn up thinking they could just pop straight in and being disappointed to find that they had to wait a few hours for entry to the monumental park).  The mushroom and leek quiche was almost perfect:  creamy filling, delicious pastry, but just short a touch of seasoning.  We will also got a little pot of pasta which was packed with flavour from the tomato sauce, olives and capers.

Barcelona Vegetart (4)

It would be rude not to have a cake, surely?  This carrot cake was moist and flavoursome, and the icing was perfect.  I would definitely recommend this place for your visit to Barcelona.

Barcelona Uay Balam (2)

And while you’re picking up your picnic, you should stop in at Uay Balam just down the road.  We saw its sign proclaiming some vegan treats in this gelateria and dessert shop, so we made a little detour to investigate.  There were five flavours of vegan gelato (chocolate, strawberry, peach, watermelon and grapefruit), and we were given a free spoonful of each to help us decide.  The cones weren’t vegan, so we enjoyed a little cup piled high with rich chocolate and refreshing strawberry gelato.  It was fantastic!

Barcelona Dos Trece (3)

Our time in Spain was relatively light on breakfasts, but we enjoyed brunch at Dos Trece.  It has four or five vegan brunch items and is a bright, spacious place with fast service.  I had the French toast, which was a wee bit too blackened on the bottom for my liking.  Still, it was delicious with the fruit and maple syrup.

Barcelona Dos Trece (1)

Dr HH enjoyed his nachos, and as you can see it was a gigantic portion.  It featured guacamole, beans, salsa and tofu – the tofu was a bit bland (he reckons it was just crumbled, unseasoned tofu from a packet), but otherwise it was a rather exciting start to the day.

Barcelona Cat Bar (1)

In Cat Bar we had some very impressive burgers.  It’s one of the few places in Barcelona (and possibly in the whole of Spain) which serves food continuously in the afternoon, allowing hungry Brits to eat at a respectable hour like 6pm, rather than battling on till some ridiculous time around 9pm when we should all be tucked up in bed.  Yes, I liked Cat Bar.  There were about 7 burgers on the menu, and you order on a little form that you take to the bar.  This is Dr HH’s Mexican Red, which he said was pleasantly spicy and had good structural integrity, which is very important – nobody likes a burger that collapses in your hands.

Barcelona Cat Bar (2)

I loved my Crazy Burger, which had a patty full of nuts and seeds.  Combined with the pesto in the bun, it was very tasty.  We both ordered patatas on the side.  They were a little too big to be bite-sized, and could have been crisper, but we were happy.

Barcelona Rasoterra

And finally, we ate at one of the few non-vegan places of our trip:  Rasoterra.  It was quite fancy, and they only just squeezed us in without a reservation, so I would recommend making one if you want to go.  It definitely wouldn’t be my top recommendation though.  After two weeks of all-vegan eating, it was a little disappointing to be back on a reduced menu.  The vegan tapas dishes were not plentiful, and there was only one vegan wine available by the glass (fortunately I am not at all particular).  We got all three vegan tapas:  the tomato bread was basically what you would expect, the veg and tofu gyoza were lovely, and the patatas bravas were like mini jacket potatoes:  crispy and delicious, and very different from the other potato dishes we’d tried.  It was all fine, but generally unremarkable.  All in all, I found the tapas scene in Barcelona a bit underwhelming, either unexceptional or too expensive.

Barcelona Gaudi Casa Batllo (1)

Barcelona itself was great.  We spent most of our time on Gaudi-inspired pursuits.  The Casa Batllo was expensive and crowded, but getting up onto the roof made it worthwhile.

Barcelona Gaudi Sagrada Familia (7)

We didn’t pay to go in the Sagrada Familia, but it was still fascinating to walk around it and try to catch all the details.

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (8)

Parc Guell is worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of tiles.

Barcelona Street Art

And sticking with an arty theme, we also took a street art tour, which was very interesting.  It didn’t yield any single, huge impressive pieces like other cities have before, but there were lots of little bits and pieces and we found out a lot about local artists and techniques, so it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time.

The big three cities in Spain are definitely vegan friendly, and have plenty to keep you entertained too.  We really enjoyed our time there – if only the restaurants opened at more reasonable hours!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Vegan in Barcelona (Part One)

Barcelona Gaudi Sagrada Familia (11)

The final stop on our Spanish tour was Barcelona.  I went there 10 years ago with my mum as a vegetarian, and had an absolute nightmare trying to find good food.  Thank the lord for Happy Cow and the vegan blogging scene!  I had more suggestions than I could reasonably fit in!  There were loads more places I wish we could have tried, though generally I was very happy with our chosen few.  This post is a two-parter, so check back next week for the final installment of our Spanish food quest.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (2)

Our first meal was a hearty lunch at Enjoy Vegan, which was in a part of the city centre with quite a few vegan restaurants.  It was a small, colourful place with a tempting glass counter of sweet and savoury food.  The indoor seating area doesn’t have aircon, and as we were there in the height of summer, we snaffled a couple of stools in the doorway.  It wasn’t much cooler, but we would take a few degrees where we could get them.  They serve empanadas, cakes and a few dishes like lasagne, and then a daily menu of three courses for €11.  This is what we chose.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (1)

I got the coconutty lentils, posted higher up.  They were well-flavoured, though they included some surprise pear – the worst kind of surprise, surely.  Still, they were good.  Dr HH panic-ordered the risotto (there was no menu, and about four options for each course which the waitress described to us).  It was really flavoursome too, with a good bite to the rice and nice bits of carrot.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (4)

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (3)

For the mains, I chose a tofu and veg cake which had a nice thick crust but was a little too squidgy underneath.  It was also a touch sweet, which surprised me.  Dr HH really enjoyed the meatballs.  They had a good bite, chewy raisins, and a nice tomato sauce.  Each main is served with your choice of salad or wedges.  We asked for the wedges, but got the salad.  At least it was colourful and light.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (6)

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (5)

The chocolate cake I chose for dessert looked really gooey, but was actually surprisingly dry.  It still tasted good though.  Dr HH chose the winner with this apple cake.  It was the perfect bake, with a really moist sponge and good flavour.  He was very pleased with himself!

The food here was quick and flavoursome, and definitely good value for money.  I like the fact that they serve food from cardboard trays that can be recycled (takeaway is also available).  This was a really good start to our Barcelona eating.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (3)

Next, we ate at beach tapas place Bar Celoneta.  It was a nice atmospheric place, but for some reason they decided not to put the air con on, meaning it was not the kind of place you could linger.  It was also surprisingly expensive – it was similar to B13 in Madrid, but significantly more costly.  For example, it specialises in sangria, but even the non-alcoholic ones cost about €6 each.  And speaking of expensive, the prawns on the left cost a whopping €11!  It’s safe to say we were expecting to receive something a bit more special.  They tasted good, but I’m had the same thing battered and fried to crispy perfection for a fraction of the price in various Asian restaurants before, so there’s just no justification for this.

The accompanying tempeh skewer was light on tempeh, with just three pieces, and two each of aubergine and sun-dried tomato.  Again, this should really have been cheaper.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (5)

The ‘aliens’ tapas were much more like it!  They were little towers of grilled courgette, sundried tomato pesto and thick, melting cheese.  I loved them, and am keen to have a go at making some for tasty nibbles at home one day.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (1)

And finally, we had potatoes romesco:  slices of potato in flavoursome sauce.  I actually preferred them to the usual patatas bravas, they were delicious!  As good as these and the aliens were, I wouldn’t go back to this place, overpriced as it was.

Barcelona El Maderal (5)

I had similar feelings about El Maderal Bar Vegana, a classy and elegant little place with an extensive beer and wine menu.  We got some croquettes, which were so cheesy and buttery that I was a little unnerved!  Dr HH loved them.  The patatas bravas had little blobs of fiery suace and cool alioli:  the perfect balance.  The smoked aubergine pate with toast was a little too bitter for me, which was a shame.  It didn’t live up to the one we had in Valencia.

Barcelona El Maderal (6)

We also got this dish, which I can best describe as a long cracker topped by tomato and cauliflower bits and slices of mushrooms.  It was flavoursome and light – but very messy to eat!

Barcelona El Maderal (7)

Finally, we got a giant cookie to take away.  It was huge and generously packed with walnuts and chocolate chunks.  Lovely!  The food was good, but the restaurant itself was a little fancier than I expected – more of a classy bar that serves food as well.

Come back next Monday to see the other food we ate and the attractions we saw.  Here’s a little teaser for you:  French toast!  Gelato!  Burgers!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Vegan in Valencia

Valencia (7)

After Madrid, we made our way to Valencia.  It was welcome relief from the absolute chaos of Madrid:  fewer tourists, easier to get around on foot, and the gentle lapping waves of the sea.  There was still a good vegan scene, though this time booking definitely wasn’t necessary.

Valencia Nomit (2)

On our first night we ate at Nomit,  a 100% vegan burger place.  It opens at 8:30pm, but the kitchen doesn’t open till 9pm – we didn’t even get a menu (or the air con switched on) while we waited.  When we were eventually allowed to peruse the menu, Dr HH eagerly chose the Morrissey burger.  It was a good choice!  The patty was made of pumpkin, beans and lentils, it was crispy on the outside, and it was delicious.

Valencia Nomit (6)

I didn’t choose a burger, surprisingly.  I got this gigantic seitan and hummus wrap. It was huge and filling.  The seitan was good, the hummus was generous and the pita was lovely and soft.  I wish it had had a little something extra for seasoning though – a little kick of spice or flavour from something.  While both of our main events were delicious, the sides left a little to be desired.  Two potato wedges?!  TWO?!  And they weren’t even crispy!

Nomit is quite a new place, and it has a lot of promise.  Service was really friendly, once we hit the 9pm mark anyway.  There was only one other guest the whole time we were in, which is such a shame.  Hopefully they will make a few little tweaks and pick up more custom.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (1)

The next day we had a typical Spanish lunch set menu at Tarta de Zanahoria.  Alas, this also involves typical Spanish lunch times:  it’s open 2-4pm.  The entire lunch service is done by one woman, both cooking and serving, and this was quite the achievement.  They deserve all the success in the world because she still managed to explain things to us in English and keep a smile on her face the whole time!  It’s quite a small place, so maybe booking would be a good idea here – it was full.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (2)

To begin with, there’s a serve yourself salad bar.  We enjoyed these amazing courgette ribbons in pesto and chickpeas with red cabbage.  We were also served a green smoothie.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (5)

There were two choices for the mains, so we got one each and split them.  The pad thai was nice, with its noodles, broccoli, nuts, mushrooms and carrots.  It would have been improved by a bit more spice though.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (4)

The mushroom ceviche was spectacular!  It featured mashed potato, avocado, mushroom and tomato, and it was so refreshing and cool.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (7)

We also split the desserts.  You know you’re onto a winner when both options are chocolatey.  The tart was rich and decadent, and the square was a little bit spongy, a little bit moussey, and it was amazing!  It cost us €11 each for all this food, and we were very satisfied indeed.  This seems like a great business to support.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (1)

Time for tapas now!  Nehuen Tasca Vegana is in Cabanyal, close to the beach, and it’s casual so you can combine a visit to the two.  It’s really nice and relaxed inside, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  The menu is written on chalkboards and includes some tapas and some main dishes.  We used a combination of Google Translate and help from the waitress to fathom it.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (2)

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (3)

We got two tapas plates to start.  The smoked aubergine spread was delicious, and the crispy mini pizza base was amazing.  If you go to Valencia, make sure you get this.  The croquettes are available with three fillings.  We chose miso and tofu, but you couldn’t have guessed it – the texture was amazing, but the flavour was really lacking.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (4)

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (5)

We also shared a couple of mains, that we’d thought would be tapas.  The vegetable ‘cake’ (Google Translate had promised us pie) was really tasty and savoury.  The quinoa and sweet potato crepe was a bit of a mixed bag:  the crepe itself was delightful, but it was spread with sweet potato puree which was a bit too sweet.

Nevertheless, we were very happy.  This place is cheap and cheerful, and wine is only €1 a glass, if you need any extra motivation.

Valencia Miobio (1)

Miobio was another place on my hit list.  It’s in Rusafa, which is the trendy/arty part of town, but it was actually a rather upscale restaurant.  Throughout our meal we were worried about how quiet it was, but at about 10pm loads of people came in.  The menu was only in Spanish, but again, we got some help.  The main courses are all pizzas, burgers or wraps.  As we were already doing pretty well with burgers, we decided to go for pizzas.  Dr HH got this one, the impressively titled ‘exclusiva pizza’.  There was no cheese on it, but it was topped with mushrooms, courgette, rocket and olive tapenade.  He said the tapenade really made it, it was so salty and delicious.

Valencia Miobio (2)

Mine was the coco-cheese pizza.  The base was lovely and crispy, and it was topped with mushrooms, leeks, tempeh bacon cubes and tasty coconut cheese.  Also, lots of rocket, which I hate, but at least its’s easily picked off.  Both pizzas were really good, but small for the price.  I suppose this is the price you pay for organic food!

Valencia Miobio (5)

Even though it was expensive, we couldn’t resist a pud.  And just look at this apple cake!  It was basically a cheesecake, with a creamy apple part.  It was tasty as it was, but then with the added crumbs for texture and peanut butter and horchata creams, it was just sublime.  This place really was good, but it’s hard to justify the price – only for a treat, unfortunately.

Valencia Kimpura (1)

We had a slightly confusing lunch at Kimpira one day.  It’s not all vegan, and the menu is marked with allergies, rather than a simple ‘V for vegan’, so it took some effort.  The menu also doesn’t refer to any soft drinks, and we were sneered at for gambling and asking for coke – they’re all organic, don’t you know?  In the end, it was expensive but pretty good.

Valencia Kimpura (2)

I had the Kimpi Burger, which had a thin but tasty, herby patty and a nice slice of cheese.  The menu warned that it came with “chef’s special ingredients”, which sounded a bit worrying to someone who loves plain burgers.  So imagine my delight when the surprise element was onion rings!  They were delicious.  I also enjoyed the accompanying yuca chips, heavily dusted with paprika.

Valencia Kimpura (3)

Dr HH’s dish was somewhat less coherent.  We thought he’d ordered an Indonesian sandwich, but this is what he was served.  It involved a sweet potato and tempeh tower, avocado salad and a papadum.  It was a bit baffling, and it in no way tasted of Indonesia.  This place probably wouldn’t be on our list if we returned to Valencia.

Valencia The Nature

Our final meal in Valencia, at The Nature, was the very definition of cheap and cheerful.  It’s a €7.50 all-you-can-eat buffet with Asian leanings.  The food is greasy and filling, and really hits the spot.  It’s a huge restaurant, so you definitely don’t need to book.  There’s a great big table full of food to serve yourself – though unfortunately, there are no labels and the sweet dishes are just scattered in with everything else, so you may surprise yourself with some mochi or fried bananas mid-meal.  There’s lots of fried food, which is exactly what I want from this kind of buffet.  The spring rolls and wontons were exceptional.  There are also lots of dishes with a mock meat focus.  All in all, it wasn’t the best food we had in Valencia, but it was great when we were hungry and in need.

Xativa Castle (19)

We didn’t have any big plans in Valencia, besides a day trip to Xativa to see this amazing castle.  Definitely worth the climb!

Valencia Street Art (19)

In the city we enjoyed some of the historic sights, but also took in a lot of street art.  There is plenty of it, including some by the Vegan Bunnies. The old town centre is impressive too, and the market was well worth a look – we got some phenomenally good cherries there!  Valencia was a much more relaxing destination than the other Spanish cities we visited – it was nice to take our feet off the pedals and take life at a more leisurely pace.  And with so many good vegan eateries, it’s definitely a good city break destination.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Vegan in Madrid

El Retiro Park (3)

Spain had been on my wishlist for a while before we booked our summer holiday there for the beginning of July.  My only previous experience with Spain was a long weekend in Barcelona ten years ago when I really struggled to find vegetarian options, and I was confident I could improve on that this time around:  I’ve seen a lot about how vegan-friendly the main cities in Spain are.  Sure enough, we ate very well as we spent two weeks travelling from Madrid to Valencia and finally Barcelona.  These are good places for vegans.

In fact, our only problems with food came from the opening times.  As a person who thrives on a regular eating schedule of breakfast at 7am, lunch before 1pm and dinner by 6:30pm at the very latest, I was not very encouraged by Spanish opening times.  Even when I thought I’d found a winner (“Oooh, this place is open from 11am!  Let’s book lunch for 12pm!”), I was swiftly disappointed (“We serve breakfast 11am-1:30pm, lunch 1:30-3pm.”).  Eventually we managed to get into a rhythm, and I don’t think I let my hanger get the better of me, though Dr HH might disagree.

My top tips for eating in Madrid are to always make a reservation, and to go for set lunch menus where possible.  Almost every eatery we visited in Madrid was constantly jam-packed, which is great news for the thriving vegan businesses, but bad news for hungry tourists.  I made all my reservations on Facebook, no clumsy telephone attempts at Spanish required.  And the three course lunch menus were very good value for money, and helped to keep me going until my next feeding at 8pm.

So, let’s dive into it!

Madrid Rayen Vegano (1)

On our first day we went for a 12pm “breakfast” at Rayen Vegano.  It’s a lovely, charming place:  really attractive, but quiet small and you really need to book.  There were English menus, and the staff spoke perfect English too, so it’s very tourist-friendly.  In fact, I’d call this a must-visit if you’re in the city.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (3)

Dr HH ordered the Sunday special of three buckwheat pancakes, which were good and thick.  They were topped with a really good cream and some fruits, and served with amazingly thick chocolate sauce.  He was delighted with this, unsurprisingly.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (4)

I couldn’t resist the tempeh sandwich, though I usually favour something sweet.  This is a regular feature on the breakfast menu, and I can’t praise it highly enough – and I say this as someone who generally hates sandwiches!  First of all, the homemade bread was delicious.  It was filled with tomato, lots of tempeh bacon fingers, cheese slices, tofu scramble and a really good sauce.  I couldn’t pick the whole thing up, it was so substantial!  The accompaniments (purple potatoes with crispy bits and a mustardy salad with avocado) were also delicious.  What a feast!

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (7)

As it had gone so well, we decided to treat ourselves to a slice of raw peanut butter cake for dessert.  It was exactly as a peanut butter cake should be:  sticky and gooey, with a good crunchy base.  Alas, we didn’t realise until the bill arrived that it cost €6.50.  It was a good cake, but that’s still a pretty high cost.  Even so, we left on a high.

Madrid Punto Vegano (6)

Late that night (at 8pm on the dot) we arrived at Punto Vegano for our first tapas of the trip.  It also serves main courses, but we were eager to get into the spirit with some tapas.  Again, booking is recommended for this small and charming little place.  There are English menus and friendly staff.  It’s a stone’s throw from the Temple de Bod, a little Egyptian temple relocated to Madrid and a nice spot to catch the sunset.

Madrid Punto Vegano (4)

We ordered three dishes to start.  Of course, we had some patatas bravas.  The little cubes of tomato were perfectly crispy, and the fiery sauce was only drizzled on, so it was quite easy to control the spiciness (you can also order the non-spicy sauce).  We added a squeeze of alioli, which was lovely and garlicky.

The fried ravioli sounded and looked so inviting.  They were lovely and crispy, but the filling was only spinach, which was a little bland.  Some tofu or mushrooms would have livened it up a bit for the palate.

The quinoa and oat meatballs in tomato sauce are also available as a main, and they were remarkable!  They had so much flavour.

Madrid Punto Vegano (5)

To make sure we were completely full, we finished off with some babaganoush.  We got a mixed plate with some hummus, as they were almost out of the aubergine dip, and both were really tasty.  The bread was good too, and we were definitely full by the end.

Madrid Punto Vegano (8)

We also got a couple of chocolate muffins to take away for breakfast the next day.  They were a bit decadent for the morning, but they were really good!

Madrid Rayen Vegano (2)

On Monday we were back to Rayen Vegano for the lunch set menu.  As I said, these are such a great deal.  It was €11.50 for three courses plus bread and a ginger kombucha drink (tap water was also available for free, which is always a bonus in Europe).  There were two options for each course, and the waitress recommended choosing one of each to share.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (1)

Alas, one of the options for the starter was a melon and cucumber gazpacho.  Melon and cucumber are two of my most-hated foods, so we didn’t bother with that – we both had the carrot and mushroom salad.  It was a simple salad that was elevated by an earthy mushroom sauce and a tasty tempeh slice on top.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (4)

One of the mains was a timbale of quinoa, avocado and fiery salsa.  It was summery and fresh, but not particularly filling – especially in comparison to the other option.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (6)

The seitan pasty on mashed potato and tomato sauce was delicious, with some pesto vegetables too.  It was very filling and there was good depth of flavour in the sauce.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (7)

The dessert options were a little disappointing:  a coconut muffin, or a coffee one.  Still, the presentation made it look somewhat fancier, and the coconut cake was moist and lovely.

Vega was our next stop.  All the reviews on Happy Cow are positive – except from people who were turned away.  Yes, booking is necessary: it’s small and popular.  Even though we booked, the service wasn’t great.  After 15 minutes nobody had taken our drinks order, and then it took another 30 minutes for our food to arrive.  Still, it was a nice, rustic place, and all vegan, so there is hope.

Madrid Vega (2)

We considered tapas again, but decided to get some mains instead.  I got the brochette of smoky tofu, which had a lovely sticky, sweet marinade and crunchy sesame seeds.  The vegetables and glass noodles were tasty and filling, though the salad leaves were not dressed, which is a shame.

Madrid Vega (1)

Dr HH was quite disappointed by his barbecued seitan with grilled vegetables.  The seitan was cut into really thin slivers, which isn’t great when the chunky, meaty texture is always the highlight.  The sauce was a little too sweet, but the chunks of vegetables were good.  It was the first underwhelming meal of the holiday, both in terms of food and service, but I suppose you can’t win them all!  It was still nice, but not on the same level as our other excellent meals.

Madrid Le Pain Quotidien (2)

Madrid Le Rollerie (1)

We had breakfast croissants a couple of times while we were in Madrid, once from Le Pain Quotidien and once from La Rollerie.  They look pretty similar above – I expected both places to bake their own goods, but who knows if they share a supplier?  They were both a little flaky outside, but quite bready inside.  Still, they were nice.  In both places you can get the croissant to eat in or take away.  Le Pain Quotidien has a couple of vegan options on the menu, and four muffins labelled vegan, so it’s a great spot to pick up snacks.

Madrid Viva Burger (1)

Madrid Viva Burger (4)

We got our burger fix at Viva Burger, which is a fun 100% vegan restaurant which specialises in, surprise surprise, burgers.  There’s an outdoor terrace in a nice square, so you can feel like quite the European – however, there’s a 10% surcharge for dining out there.  We did so anyway.  It was extremely popular, and initially there was only one server so things were a little slow.  It picked up eventually though.  This place was the first in Madrid that gave us complementary olives while we waited:  hurray!

Madrid Viva Burger (5)

I ordered the ahumada burger, which promised smoked cheese and sundried tomatoes.  The patty was good and vegetable-based, but the highlight was the cheese – a really thick slab of it, simply delicious.  It was very good, but I couldn’t actually finish it, it was so immense.

Madrid Viva Burger (6)

Dr HH had no such problems.  He enjoyed his chingona burger, which had the same patty topped with avocado and pico de gallo.  He enjoyed the spiciness and thought the whole thing was packed with flavour.  Alas, it lacked some structural integrity – the avocado should have been sliced, rather than cut into big chunks which couldn’t be held in place or squashed down for easy devouring.  Both burgers came with amazing crispy potato wedges.  I ate all of those, no problem!

Madrid B13 (1)

Our last meal in Madrid was definitely one of the best, and probably our best tapas in the whole of Spain.  We went to B13, which serves both tapas and mains and is quite a cheap and cheerful place with no table service and no reservations.  We were there about 5 minutes after opening at 8:30pm, and within half an hour it was absolutely packed.  Happily, we got some fried potato slices while we waited and agonised over the menu.

Madrid B13 (5)

I was really excited about trying the calamares, something neither of us had ever eaten in our omnivore days.  They were rings of lightly battered tofu with a slight taste of the sea, which I guess is from seaweed.  The batter was perfect, and they were delicious, though I can’t comment on their authenticity.

The onion rings were less impressive – the batter wasn’t as good as that on the calamares, and they seemed to be made from mushed onion rather than actual rings.  They came with a tasty BBQ sauce which livened them up a bit.

We gambled on something called San Jacobs of seitan and cheese.  They were basically breadcrumbed nuggets comprised of two thin slices of seitan sandwiched with gooey cheese, and served with more of that BBQ dip (there were four options).  Sounds good, no?  They were excellent.

Madrid B13 (3)

And, saving the best for last, we had this potato omelette.  It was huge!  It was also very tasty.  This was our first taste of tortilla, and it was very good indeed, you must try it if you visit.

Madrid Palace (5)

Madrid was a great destination, both as a vegan and as a tourist.  We enjoyed the greenery in the city, especially El Retiro park in the city centre and the gardens around the palace.

Madrid City Centre (3)

There were also lots of grand buildings to admire, including the palace itself, the cathedral and this rather famous one.

Reina Sofia (2)

 

There is no shortage of good art in Madrid either.  The Prado is possibly the most famous, but we didn’t go there – we went to the Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza instead (both have free opening hours, so take a look if you want to save some pennies).  Those two have more of the impressionists, which is what we generally keep an eye out for.

Madrid Street Art (17)

And there’s street art aplenty too.  We went on a street art tour and saw some impressive works around the city centre.  The walls around the Tabaclera were one of the best spots, with lots of colourful pictures to admire.

Whatever you’re into, and however hungry you are, Madrid will keep you happy!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Vegan in Manchester: Phở

003

I don’t think I ate phở the whole time I lived in Vietnam (two and a half years, for the record), but I am constantly on the lookout for it now.  I’ve made my own before, but when a restaurant named Phở opened in Manchester (just a couple of weeks after I moved away last summer – what a cheek!), I was eager to pay a visit.  It’s located in the newly renovated Corn Exchange, which also houses at least one other vegan-friendly establishment, Mowgli.  The menu has plenty of vegetarian options, and the waiter told me that they were all vegan as long as I specified that I didn’t want any fish sauce.

Pho (2)

What to have?  Well, there were some inviting looking spring rolls, but of course I had to go for the button mushroom and tofu phở.  And it was good!  The broth was really flavoursome, and it was full of good herbs, mushrooms, noodles and fried tofu.  I loved it, and was really full afterwards, so I’m glad I didn’t get any starters.

While the food was delicious, I felt it was ridiculously expensive.  There’s a reason this is the national dish in a poor country.  I’ve made it myself in Manchester and know that even the more exotic ingredients can be bought pretty cheaply.  Even though it’s a meal in itself, I feel that £7.95 is a lot for a bowl of soup.

None of this will stop me from going back, of course.  Phở is just so good!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , | 4 Comments