Two of the three pugs that I had the pleasure to look after. Pugs are hilarious as I had the joy to discover!
Two of the three pugs that I had the pleasure to look after. Pugs are hilarious as I had the joy to discover!
Find yourself hungry and away from a sizeable city and it can be a wasteland for vegans, and slim pickings for those with gluten or other food sensitivities. Jacket potato anyone? Oh yes, I’ll just pop on my 80’s shoulder pads, white stilettos and step back in time to devour this culinary masterpiece!
Back here in the 21st century changes are afoot. A trickle of inventiveness is emerging and SOME pub and cafe chains are offering those who prefer to live off plants and don’t find a plate of raw carrots sticks and tomato sauce a dinner worthy of salivation, a meal with flavour and a bit of thought.
A few weeks back I was staying in a twee little English village. A friend was visiting and I didn’t want to cook. I heard something on the grapevine about a local Greene King pub that was serving a couple of vegan dishes on the menu. Hoorah! I called ahead and, hang out the bunting, ring the bells, they confirmed that they did.
I didn’t quite skip with glee all the way there as I was a bit wary, however I was pleasantly surprised. The salad was tasty and filling. The beetroot glaze was lovely and the tiny chillies added a gentle kick.
Much as I try not to be judgemental in life, (or should I call it discerning?), I do sometimes make false assumptions. Like ‘Bradley Cooper always makes a good movie’, and ‘a classy looking vegetarian restaurant a mere hop skip and jump from the sweeping curve of the legendary Regents Street, is going to have an atmosphere spawned from a transient crowd of diners and not be a place I’d want to linger. My assumptions tripped me up once again, when I visited tibits vegetarian restaurant in London recently. Not only did I find the food tasty, imaginative and comforting, on a cool November day but also the atmosphere was more redolent of a cozy, welcoming cafe in Devon!. The staff are exceptionally helpful, and friendly. The seating, soft mood lighting, chandeleirs and layout make it for such a sweet space to relax and dine with friends.
They are now regularly scheduling Vegan Days, when all of the hot dishes are vegan.
A self serve ‘pay by weight’ restaurant, bar and (for the busy City worker) take away. All the food is cooked fresh each day (and throughout the day) with a huge array of hot entrees and salad dishes. Most being created with seasonal ingredients.
Children are welcome and downstairs they have a great little area where the kids can play happily. I spotted lots of cute wooden toys and trikes for them to entertain themselves with.
Being a buffet type affair, there is a method to employ to get you to the eating stage. First, bagsey a table. Plant a hat or something from your person to say ‘hey, walk on by, that’s my table’. Then..
they serve a large selection of vegetarian/vegan wine and cocktails.
I was a bit disappointed with the selection of desserts for vegans with gluten sensitivities. Although I love fresh figs and other fruits, once my eyes have spotted apple crumble, cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding, I want to be able to place genourously heaped spoons of the like into my mouth! Knowing as I do how easy it is to create gluten free vegan puds I would have thought that they would have had at least one indulgent dessert on offer. Alas no. But the silver lining was I left feeling comfortably satiated instead of filled up to the brim, as so easily can be done.
They published a cookbook on their 10th anniversary. tibits At Home, it’s seasonally compartmentalised, and is full of beautiful photographs with simple recipes to try. One of the staff told me that all the photos in the book were taken in the homes of regular diners in Switzerland.
It was ironic that the recipe I wanted to try first had ‘dried green beans’ I am sure I have an inbuilt tuner that alerts me to unusual ingredients. A brief surf online failed to turn up with a supplier. Luckily, I had been sent the cookbook to review before I went to eat at the restaurant, so I enquired about the recipe and asked where I could buy the dried beans. ‘Right here’ was the reply. So I grabbed a bag and took them home to recreate one of their iconic recipes.
It was so simple to make. Yes, you could make it with fresh green beans but I so enjoyed the chewy texture of the dried beans after they’d been cooked in water and mixed with the other ingredients.
This is the recipe from the book that intrigued me so much. It’s a tangle of flavoursome lusciousness.
½ onion, chopped
8 tbsp rapeseed oil (I used 1 2tbs walnut oil)
25g vegetable bouillon (1 1/2 vegan stock cubes)
1 garlic clove, crushed
70g walnuts pieces
4 tbsp red balsamic vinegar (red?!..not seen this before..I used ‘normal’ balsamic)
5g Fresh coriander leaves
cook the dried beans in boiling water until soft, drain well and allow to cool.
Other recipes in my (backlogged) catalogue of ones to try from tibits At Home, are the passionfruit lemonade (just because I’m dreaming of days of sunshine, warm breezes and chinking ice cubes), the exotic Goan curry, the light and intriguing coconut and pineapple tiramisu, and the white asparagus with orange sauce. 80% of the dishes are vegan, so some I will have to adapt. But I love a challenge.
There are currently five tibits’ restaurants in Europe. So, for me, that’s one down and four left to try! Any excuse to travel (and eat).
Last weekend I tagged along with the London Vegan Meet Up group for a VEGAN FOOD walk from Spitalfields to Brick Lane. Both just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station. One of the Meet UP members, Jagtar, has been working for a charity in this area at weekends and he had ranked up quite a portfolio of tried and tested food on offer. He wanted us to come and enjoy it too.
|Jagtar (ur friendly guide) sampling vegan Tibetan dumplings stuffed with cabbage|
Brick Lane was heaving. The clocks falling back making nightfall all too early but it ramped up the atmosphere and the colours, sounds and sights were kalidescopic. The streets were heavily scented with the aromas from ethnic eateries and the street market.
I opted for the Ethiopian lentil & spinach stew and chickpea stew from the Ethiopian lady who has a stall both here and a Greenwich. Sadly, the picture failed to save and I forgot the name of the stall (sorry!) but her food is totally comforting and full of flavour.
|This was a vegan cake stall within another market at Brick Lane. Lots of gluten free and a sugar free carrot cake. I applaud her efforts and perhaps she is just starting out so hopefully they will improve. Fair play to her, there is a lot of competition in London now and some excellent vegan bakers.
We sampled sweet rice dumplings dusted with sesame seeds and falafel in Spitalfields Market. The market, dating back to Victorian era is fused with more contemporary architecture and glossy upmarket shops. It is a great Sunday hang-out.
They also serve a huge range of vegan milked based drinks, juices & smoothies, herbal teas and just plain, honest to goodness, water. I noticed, they used to use all organic eco-friendly toiletries in the loos and I was a little disappointed that this was not the case on this visit.
I think Vitao would be equally great for a bunch of friends or just comfy by yourself watching the world go by.
As readers of my blog will know..I am currently obsessed with London. It is so ALIVE right now and the sun is joyfully playing ball. I think there must be something in the water as now TWO of my friends, who previously shunned the capital like the plague, have turned around and said..as easy as they’d been coming up there with me for years..’yes, lets have a day out in London! Yay! Just goes to show…you’ve gotta give people room to change (though in a more speedier manner would be helpful!).
There was a VINTAGE festival on at the South Bank Centre, which overlooks the Thames. Reams of loral retro dresses and spike vintage heels clicking around the place. The girls looked so gorgeous and the men all sharp, www.brylcreemed.com and fine, wearing winkle-pickers so pointed I’m surprised Health & Safety have not clapped a ban on them as ‘unsafe sharp objects’. I have no idea why (didn’t want to get caught) but I’ve no pictures of any of them in their finery. Not even the girl in the black basque and satin pencil skirt with an incredibly small waist..couldn’t have been more than 20′, seriously…she obviously hadn’t just eaten a huge meal like I had and now was having to carry around like a growing foetus in my belly. I looked marsupial! Not a good look…for a very celibate and unpregnant girl.
What had filled me up? An off the charts Indian restuarant steps away from Covent Garden. Before catching the train, I had done my usual (and far too involved) planning for the outing. Where to meet, what time, where to go, what to see and VERY importantly…where to dine. I had mapped the whole day around the food stops (oh dear, is that sad?..hmm, but true). An optomistic planner, I usually have to cross off at least three items from my list. Of course I allow it all to go to pot when reality kicks in. It seems my mind does things a lot quicker than actuality. We did get to go to one place I wanted and I stumbled across a new street van I want to check out in the future..but whilst dragging my friend around, filling up his head with all my excitement and chatter, I spotted Sagar..three blocks from all the doings at Covent Garden. Upon entry I was greeted with a friendly smile and a VEGAN MENU. Sagar is a South Indian, vegetarian joint, and they have a whole menu just for vegans. Nice. My friend and I (he had no choice really but to give in to me) ditched our (my) plans and took a table by the window so we could people watch. After agonising between the marsala dosa and the pizza (Indian pizza? i know, this is London..this is fusion..this is progress). I chose the pizza, (Uthapam) out of curiosity (my, this girl is a reckless risk taker!).
The pizza came, along with my friends dosa and idli (steamed rice sponge) (not vegan…how selfish of him..or wise as I would have nabbed half!). The ‘pizza’ was a rice and lentil flour base (on my list to recreate) topped with delicious potatoes, onions & coriander (ciltrano) with gun powder chili. Amazing flavours. The sambal and coconut chutneys were..in a word..PERFECT. My friend allowed me to nick a very small (God! I told him it was for research purposes!) tearing of his dosa and man oh man, it was good, with a whiff of heat. I was stuffed. No room for (or energy after my marathon sightseeing programme) to go hunt down a cupcake or slice of something sweet. Sagar are excellent and the service and attention exceptional. The 2 entrees, 1 starter and a round of poppadoms under £19, right by the West End..this is incredible. If you know better..hey, tell me. At time of writing their www.gosagar.com was undergoing a rejig.
Other than eating we also went to the Glamour of the Gods photography exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery which has excellent portraits of Hollywood legends from the 1920’s to the 1960. I swooned unashamedly at a shot of Clark Gabel…’oh Ashley’, embracing some wilting starlet. I took a chance of a second viewing (I’d been week before) of the BP portrait awards..incredible talent..honestly, I’d love to watch one of the artists at work. Our outing also spotted a rave on the beach (thank God for low tide). London was dancing in the sun. Now you don’t get to read THAT very often.
|street car I desired!|
|a retro roving cinema…there is a projector in the bulbous glass front deck|
|raving on the banks of the Thames river|
One said gem was the The Honest Carrot….doff your cap…lovely girl baking up a storm for the love of veggie grub. To be perfectly honest I didn’t have the spare change to purchase as I’d used my piggy bank money for something else, but it all looked lovingly crafted.
What a day! More fun than you can shake a stick at! LONDON DAY OUT!
So passionate is this chica that she had this tattoo done to help her to remember her baking conversions. Way to go Sarah.
Melisser aka The Urban Housewife turned up to say hi too. What a love! It all became a bit of a tattoo fest and I felt quite naked with my body still the same as God made. Her tattooed sleeve below is the story of some of her travelling life….which has now taken her over to the VEGAN friendly Berlin. Hope to see her there one day soon. What a lovely way to pass the day…I just wish I could have whisked us all to a huge designer kitchen to hang out and make busy with some food.
|Tattoo. The Urban Housewife .Copyright.
Sorry to be a typical English person and put the weather at the top of the agenda….. but with only one glorious day to be plucked from the sodden depths of a seaside winter I have been seeking comfort food. Nourishing, warm and tasty, that’s the Iydea.
Tucked away at the Northern end of the Laines in Brighton is a small vegetarian cafe called Iydea . It’s not huge, seating for about 30. The windows steam up from all the hot enticing dishes laying side by side in a hot cabinet. I’ve gone there nearly every day for their ‘To Go’ soups. Only £1.90. Filled to the brim in a recycled cardboard cup. I’ve been rendered a contented and full bunny by their daily soups. Roasted Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip, spinach and basil (my favourite)…topped with roasted seeds, carrot and ginger with a sprinkle of roasted carrot shavings and tomato and red lentil with a spoon of vinegared, grated beetroot on the top. Taking advantage of each lunch time that has kindly held back the flow of precipitation, I’ve sat on a bench nearby and people watched as I sipped these thick heart warming lovelies.
Speaking of lovelies…it fits the description of the staff to a T. All smiling sweeties…as diverse as their daily specials and guaranteed to leave you happy.
I also had a meal of their..’choose your own mains and salads’. Rasam…a curried lentil stew type thing..perfectly cooked and spooned over tummy loving brown rice, greens, and pumpkin and parsnip smash….v.v.good. Simple and good. Alas, no picture of this but below is the garlic roasted green beans, butter bean & carrot salad, Indian potato salad, carrot & parsnip mash and hummus…..They know their comfort food at Iydea.
Its a cafe and not a candle and waiter service type place but for the wallet/purse conscious, those in a hurry or those needing to be warmed by nourishing food when the Sun is playing hide and seek….it is a winner…and that’s without even telling you that at 4:30pm they put anything left in eco-friendly containers and sell it at a very pleasing price.