I love every bit of being vegan. Well, sometimes going out to dinner can be tricky. Okay, okay, going out to dinner at a non-vegan place fills me with dread. Will the waiters and waitresses know what a vegan is? Will the chef? Will I be served a plate of veg or have to make do with chips and salad? I worry quite a bit while dining in Oxfordshire, but I was quite concerned with the prospect of eating out in my native Pembrokeshire this weekend. It’s been tough to be vegetarian in Pembrokeshire at times, so I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately, my sister is incredibly supportive of my veganism, as is Phil, and between them, I was well catered for.
First up was Saturday lunch and my sister decided on The Brewery Inn in Cosheston. Having eaten there herself before, she knew it was a lovely, relaxed, dog friendly inn, with great food and service. She got in contact with them to find out what vegan offerings they had and they replied promptly, stating that as they cook everything from scratch, they could whip anything up, including a pudding. Well, with the offering of a pudding, I was more than happy to try there.
Hello, my name is Crafty Chai and I am a burger addict. I’m not 100% sure what the burger was, other than is was vegetable based (I’m thinking squash or sweet potato) and delicious. It was in a wholemeal bun (not all burger rolls are vegan *side eyes at M&S*) and had generous portions of sliced tomato and lettuce. It was lovely. So much so I barely said a word while eating it. Always a good sign of a content Crafty Chai. I was offered triple cooked chips, french fries or sweet potato fries. No contest really – I went for the triple cooked chips. OMG. They were to die for. I felt thoroughly spoilt. Plus virtuous, as my burger was basically vegetables meaning PUDDING! A chocolate mousse, no less. It came out of the kitchen in this rather large cup and saucer. I had pretty much given up on the idea of pudding, with the exception of sorbet (which I will never have. It’s pretty much a grown up, boring version of a Slush Puppy, without the capability of turning your tongue blue) so anywhere that offers a vegan pudding, I’ll be more than happy to dine in. This was a pretty epic pudding and it did defeat me. It was chocolatey, and velvet smooth. I will definitely be going back there. It’s got a lovely feel to it, it’s been decorated to a high standard and they had a cosy log burner on the go in the bar area when we were there. Plus, the staff were lovely, but not intrusive. I didn’t feel out of place at all (and I have done in some other places). Nothing was too much trouble. They had quite a few vegan mains available, you just have to give them advanced warning of your arrival. Their website is in the process of being updated, but they update their Facebook page regularly. So why not treat your vegan valentine for a tasty, cruelty free meal?
I’m going to let you into a little secret: This was the first meal Phil ever made for me. It was delicious then and it’s still delicious now. We’ve changed the mince we use, since I became vegan and if anything, it’s even better. It’s easy and simple to make and the batch we make feeds two of us for two meals. (Or one massive meal and a lunch for one of us, depending on how hungry we are!)
- A tablespoon of oil. (We used to use olive oil, but have moved over to coconut recently. Not gonna lie, it does flavour it slightly, but it’s still amazing.)
- Two peppers (Ideally one green, one red though I struggle to remember to order green ones, so any mixture of peppers will do. Trust me!)
- One white onion
- A packed of Sainsbury’s vegetarian mince
- A tin of kidney beans
- A tin of chopped tomatoes
- A tablespoon of tomato puree
- A teaspoon of chilli powder (Now this depends on how hot you like it. We put in more than this, but we use a mild powder.
- Chop the veg. Big chunks, little chunks, it doesn’t really matter. The bigger they are, they more crispy they’ll be.
- Fry the onion until it’s slightly transparent, then add the peppers, followed by the mince.
- Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the mince doesn’t stick. If it does, add a bit more oil.
- Add the kidney beans (drained and rinsed), the chopped toms, tomato puree and chilli powder. Stir it well.
- Cover and cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (We usually have this with brown rice and put this on then.)
- When it’s ready, dish up, keeping your extra portions, then stuff your face.
So. What to do with the leftovers. You could very easily bung them in the freezer for another day. Or you could…
Cook some jacket potatoes until the skins are crispy, then spread some vegan spread on the pots, dishing up the leftover chilli and devouring with a side of salsa and an oven baked corn on the cob (my favourite veg of all time).
You could also…
Fill a few tortilla wraps with the leftover chilli, roll them up and place them in an oven proof baking dish. Pour over a jar of Zest Tomato & Fiery Chilli Pasta sauce then grate some vegan cheese over the top (We used the melty Sheese). Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes (or less if you’ve got a decent oven, unlike us). Serve with some delicious wedges if you really want to carb overdose, which I did. And I don’t regret it one little bit!
To be fair, there’s probably loads more stuff you can do with leftover chilli, but these are my favourite, especially the enchiladas. I could’ve died happy after eating them. *drools*
Regular readers of my little blog will know that I’m not a huge fan of cooking, but as we’d planned to make our own New Year’s Eve feast, Phil and I wanted a homemade pudding from scratch. Phil received the Lucy Bee Coconut oil cookbook for Christmas and we saw a delicious looking raw chocolate cheesecake recipe and decided to give it a try.
The great thing about this cookbook is not only that it’s full of healthy recipes, but all the recipes are clearly labeled as to whether they are gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, lactose free, vegetarian or vegan. Lots of the non-vegan recipes can be veganised so it’s well worth getting if you’re interested in cooking with coconut oil more. There are also a few beauty recipes so you can make your body scrub, among other things.
The recipe is easy and straightforward to follow. The only difficulty I had was blitzing the cashew nuts after soaking because I don’t have a food processor but we managed to create a cashew butter, even it meant sacrificing my hand blender! Once you’ve made the cheesecake, you have to put it in the freezer, which is easy enough. The recipe says you need to take it out of the freezer for 10 minutes before serving, but I found this wasn’t long enough by any stretch. We found it needed to be out of the freezer for a good hour before it was defrosted enough to cut and then it needed a little bit longer before we could eat it. Instead of serving it with creme fraiche, we used Oatly cream, which I received in my Archie Browns hamper. It’s so good. You wouldn’t notice the difference between it and regular cream. The cheesecake keeps well, and we’ve still got a few slices left. As it’s full of natural goodness, even if you’re detoxing, you can allow yourself this!
For the last few years, Phil and I have welcomed in the new year with a take away. It’s easier than cooking giving us more time to get onto that second bottle of prosecco. However, we’ve recently been cutting back on takeaways, and we’ve realised that a lot of the time, we prefer what we cook to what we get from takeaways. So we decided that this year, we’d cook something ourselves and we decided on a curry. Armed with a good quality shop bought curry sauce, a packet of vegan Quorn and ingredients for chapatis and bhajis, we set about creating our new year feast.
It kind of went okay. The bhajis were delicious and I almost couldn’t stop eating them. The chapatis were okay, though I couldn’t get chapati flour so they weren’t as soft as they should be. I had to substitute wholemeal flour in its place, which works okay, but it’s not ideal. The shop bought sauce and vegan Quorn pieces weren’t that tasty in comparison with the freshly homemade extras. I think I need to get a few vegetable curry sauces under my belt so we don’t have to buy sauces. We’ve got most of the spices so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?
The best thing was having enough bhajis left over for lunch the next day. I had some wraps in the freezer which I used, put some vegan mayo and French’s Deli relish, along with a couple of bhajis and some salad leaves. They were so good! I’m so pleased I didn’t eat them all New Year’s eve!
To make the bhajis, you need the following:
- Two cups of gram flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds (though 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander will do)
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 onion
- 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
- At least one cup of water, though probably two. You want to add it slowly, whisking as you go, so that you end up with a gloopy batter, but not liquid
- plenty of oil for frying
- Sieve the gram flour into a bowl and add all the spices. Mix.
- Gradually add the water, mixing as you go, so that you end up with a thick batter.
- Chop the onion and the spinach. Then add to the batter.
- Give the batter a good mix so that all the onion and spinach is covered in the batter.
- Heat the oil in a wok. When it’s really hot, carefully add spoonfuls of the batter mix to oil.
- Keep an eye on the bhajis and when they’re cooked on one side, carefully turn them.
- When the bhajis are brown on both sides, carefully remove them from the oil and leave them to drain on some kitchen paper.
- When cool enough to avoid burning you mouth, enjoy until you can eat no more!
I got this recipe years and years ago from a cooking class I went on. It was pretty good, though this is the only thing I’ve made in about ten years! If you do have any leftovers, it might be worth warming them through to get the most out of their deliciousness. Enjoy!