Tag: vegan

Restaurant review: The Field, London Fields

Asparagus velouté, red cabbage ravioli, gravy that could wean Super Hans off crack… a new vegan spot that actually ISN’T doing fast food

The Field, 358-360 Westgate St, London E8 3RN (07736 670367). Five-course tasting menu for two, including drinks: £84

*Journalistic integrity announcement: one of the chefs here is a friend of a friend. This has not tempered any of my opinions*

★★★★☆

Joanna Lumley once said, when it comes to vegetarian and vegan food, don’t bully, tempt. And London has answered her call – with the all day breakfast pie and mash at Young Vegans, fried chicken at Temple of Seitan, peanut butter ice cream sandwiches at Cookies and Scream

However, there isn’t so much in the way of refined vegan food. Something a bit lighter than Purezza’s sourdough balls filled with hot cheese and emotions (which, incidentally, are not a wise order on a first date).

Then comes along the vegan tasting menu at The Field, at London Fields in Hackney. The concept is that you can add a meat or fish option to two courses if you fancy. I didn’t, because I’m vegan, if you hadn’t noticed.

First off was a mezze plate – sourdough painted in sweet, umami mushroom coconut butter; a super-smooth cashew butter; toasty sunflower seed lavash (like a cracker); beetroot dip; and spicy harissa.

It was all a bit thicker, richer, smoother, just better than the vegan food I make at home, or the stuff in tubs and jars.Mezze platter

Next was asparagus velouté with asparagus, almonds, puffed spelt, herb oil and tiny cubes of pickled courgette. It was like a mathematical exercise in gastronomic balance: crunchy spelt vs smooth velouté, bitter almond vs sweet asparagus, fat of the oil vs acid in the pickle. My vegetable-fearing friend declared asparagus was now on his list of edible greens. A+.

Velouté, meaning velvety, is usually (but not always) made with cream and butter, so to get the richness across without them is impressive. My only negative is that I prefer it when it’s not foamy at all, and this was a little.

This was followed by pasta – warm agnolotti, with a lot of heat from black pepper. In the middle was caramelised orange and cabbage reduced until it had this great tear-apart bundle of hay texture. The mild tofu sauce was just a foil to mop up everything else. The pasta dough was not as soft as your average, but with the pine nuts and freshness from raw red cabbage and herbs, I could have had seconds and eaten everyone else’s too.

The celeriac with a nori (seaweed) and olive crumb, in mushroom broth, was the only course I didn’t love. Mushrooms were missing umami and depth of flavour and the broth was a bit watery. There was a strong taste of the sea with sea veg (also seaweed) but it wasn’t balanced by the other flavours. The celeriac needed some serious roasting until it does that amazing sticky, caramelised thing.

The meatiest course was a cauliflower steak with a sticky gravy that could wean Super Hans off crack, made from reduced root veg and cumin. I would buy that gravy by the bucket.

A warm caramelised yeast sauce was beautifully smooth and the cauliflower was roasted properly, without fear.

The last course was basically a magic trick on the theme of of sweetcorn – a custard tart where the custard was made from only blended corn and sugar, with salted caramel popcorn. Even my dairy-eating friends were convinced.

As for drinks, the wine list is vegan and we had a Folle Blanche for £25, or they have Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club if you want vegan beer.

It came to £42 for the five courses and drinks, plus the bonus mezze plate and a granita. It’s not cheap and isn’t far off the £35 five-course vegan menu at Marcus Wareing’s Tredwells in Covent Garden. But I was happy to pay for it as a treat, and particularly to support a new restaurant that is somehow making British vegan food classy.

Cheesy nachos with cajun British black badger peas

This is my all-time favourite dinner. When I first discovered nutritional yeast I was pretty excited, but that was nothing compared to when I found out how make it into a supremely cheesy sauce — using mostly potatoes and carrots?! It sounds mad but seriously, try it. Plus it takes the guilt factor out of eating a huge plate of melted cheese.  See ya, raclette.

Lately I’ve been trying to source as much of my food as possible from organic British growers. Pesticides (variations of which are used to make nerve gases and bombs) are what is behind the prediction that some of our soils have only 30 to 40 years of harvests left.

We’re only just starting to clock their effect on our health, and they’ve certainly killed wildlife and even people in farms around the world. We absolutely depend on wildlife as part of the ecosystem to grow food, so at some point our chemical addiction has to be addressed or we won’t be able to grow anything to feed ourselves.

Getting an organic veg box is an easy, delicious way to help, and I’ve started ordering organic pulses online from Hodmedod’s, who are bringing back some really great ancient British peas and grains.

So here’s my recipe for nachos with vegan cheesy sauce, cajun black badger peas and a green chilli coriander salsa.

RECIPE

Feeds 4

Ingredients

** The black badgers need to be soaked overnight **

For the cheese sauce

  • 125g carrot (approx. one)
  • 250g potato (approx. one big one)
  • 125ml water
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves of garlic

For the nachos 

  • 6 tortilla wraps

For the black badgers

  • 200g dried black badgers (carlin peas) or black beans
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsps paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

For the salsa

  • 3 small green chillies, go for the variety that suits you for hotness
  • Bunch of coriander, about 30g
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 tbsps water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Extras

Spring onions, jalapenos, sweetcorn, tomato, limes — but try to go for what’s seasonal! Spring onions are good at the end of winter.

Method

1. Soak the black badgers overnight in plenty of water. Rinse and cover again with water plus 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and cover. Cook for 40-60 minutes until soft.

2. Meanwhile, start on the cheese sauce. Peel and roughly chop the potato and carrot into same-sized chunks and boil for 15-20 mins until soft. Don’t overcook or the sauce will go floury!

3. Drain then blend the potato and carrots with the rest of the ingredients, using a hand blender or nutribullet. You could mash it but the garlic would need to be crushed into a paste.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ 390F/ gas mark 6

5. To finish off the beans, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions over a fairly high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add all the herbs and spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked beans and fry until everything is really crispy. Add any more salt, spices, herbs or oil to taste along the way, the black badgers are great for taking on flavour.

6. Cut the tortilla wraps into triangles and bake in the oven on trays for 10 minutes. Try not to overlap them too much or they won’t crisp up as well.

7. For the salsa, blend all the ingredients together, or chop really finely omitting the water.

8. Assemble — start with the nachos, add the cheese sauce, then black badgers, salsa and any extras. This would also be great reimagined as wraps for packed lunches.

 

5 of my favourite vegan recipes for Veganuary

If you’re one of the 80,000 who have signed up to Veganuary this year, help is at hand! These are five recipes that I would be making if I was vegan or not.

Of all the mainstream diets, veganism has the lowest impact on the planet. Going veggie is a huge help but dairy often has a bigger carbon footprint than chicken or eggs. This paper by Oxford University academics suggests vegan diets have half the greenhouse gas emissions of normal meat diets.

So keep going, you’re doing a great thing!

1. Jamie’s vegan shepherd’s pie 

The list of ingredients is a little long but I couldn’t believe how good it tastes. It has protein in the pulses to fill you up, and you can add vegan cheese to the top while the pie is cooking if you’re missing dairy. I’m usually very suspicious of vegan cheese but when it’s melted it all seems to be much nicer!

2. Vegan cheese sauce for nachos (or cauliflower cheese)

This one is going to seem mad but I can’t tell you enough how good it is. The combination of potatoes, carrots and nutritional yeast seems improbable — but it works and the best thing is, it’s so much healthier than actual cheese!

For dinner, I cut tortilla wraps into triangles, bake them in the oven for 10 minutes until toasted, pour the cheese sauce over the top and add salsa, jalapenos, refried beans and anything else vaguely Mexican. Do it.

3. Romesco sauce

I am forever sharing the recipe for this smokey red pepper, tomato, almond and paprika dip. I’ve taken it to pretty much every party I’ve ever been to. It also involves barely any cooking and makes for great packed lunches with roast veg and roast chickpeas.

4. BBQ baked beans

Another one of Jamie’s, serve it with or without vegan cheese and coconut yoghurt on the side. It’s great for the slow cooker and would go well with veggie sausages too.

5. Oatly oat milk

Okay this last one’s not a recipe but it’s important! Finding the best alt milk for tea has become a weird hobby of mine. The Barista version of Oatly’s oat milk is super creamy, goes perfectly in tea and coffee and has the most naturally milky taste in my opinion. It’s also great in porridge and smoothies.

The company’s ethics are sound and they grow all their organic oats in Sweden so you know the provenance of the ingredients isn’t dodgy.

Restaurant review: World Vegan Month at Foxlow

Upmarket meaty chain flirts with veganism

Foxlow, 8-10 Lower James St, Soho, London W1F 9EL (020 7680 2710). Two-course meal for two, including drinks: £26

★★★★☆

The best thing about eating in Foxlow, to be completely honest, is that you can get two courses for £10 on their veggie/ vegan menu. This, and the copper hanging lamps, teal subway tiles and gold table edging, give succour to the budget-ailed diner who would like to pretend she regularly meets friends for lunch in Soho.

For £3 more you can drink bottomless filter coffee until the caffeine buzz becomes unbearable, at which point you have pretty much won London.

Foxlow is a small chain of restaurants for meat lovers. It is the sister of steak chain Hawksmoor and its usual lunch fare includes rare breed ribs for starters and ribeye for mains. Not a place, then, where you would expect a vegan menu. But lo, in honour of World Vegan Month this November, Foxlow has devised one.

Kale, avocado & fresh herb salad, and carrot houmous with carrot top pesto and sourdough

We started with a smoky, creamy carrot houmous, on slices of sourdough, and a leafy pile of kale, avocado and herb salad. The houmous had a nice hit of tahini, which went nicely with carrot top pesto and pumpkin seeds. The kale was vinegary, offset by the avocado, and came with a meagre amount of squash. As it goes, the avocado, having been flown to the UK from lands afar, would have been unnecessary had there been more squash, which is in season and abundant in our own country.

Aubergine ‘steak’ with wild mushrooms and vegan béarnaise sauce, and spice-roasted cauliflower with chickpeas, wilted spinach and curried aubergine sauce

The aubergine steak sure looked like steak, and would please most people to whom the heavily lentilled vegan aesthetic does not appeal. As a meaty restaurant, it makes sense to ground the vegan menu in familiar territory, where diners don’t roll their eyes at descriptions of nut roast and tofu and the like.

The sauce was nice and sweet, the mushrooms added to the umami meaty vibe and and the béarnaise was cleverly veganised, although nothing will ever replace the taste of butter. I would only add that it could do with a side of veg or chips, which I suppose is my fault for not foreseeing.

The cauliflower, in the running for 2017’s most fashionable vegetable, was wonderful thanks to the sauces. The curried aubergine one tasted a bit like HP, and a cauliflower puree brought creamy goodness. The attention to detail of the spicing and seasoning was obvious and the fried chickpeas and wilted spinach helped mop the sauces up.

It’s worth pointing out that on the Thursday that I went to Foxlow with a friend, we turned up at 1pm without booking and were seated straight away. There are other branches in Balham, Chiswick and Clerkenwell.

Foxlow has a 3-star Sustainable Restaurant Association rating – the highest. The rating is based on ingredient sourcing, looking after workers, and caring for the environment. The introduction of more veggie/ vegan options is the cherry on top, given that beef, Foxlow’s specialty, is such a greenhouse gas-intensive food. Even better, rumour has it the dishes are staying put.

 

Oaty easy vegan biscuit flapjacks

There is a magical thing that happens when you combine baked goods with offices. Inbuilt cake radars have been fine-tuned over years and people can sniff the stuff from 20 desks away. Then suddenly, it’s gone.

These biscjacks are a perfect oaty 3pm office stopgap. Tea is mandatory.

P.S. They’re also really cheap to make!

Why are they eco? 

I swapped butter for sunflower oil in this recipe, which helps cut down the carbon footprint. Oil, depending on the type and size of the bottle, has about half the footprint of butter. It’s such an easy swap that translates to many other recipes.

RECIPE

(Blender needed)

Makes 8 biscuit flapjacks

Ingredients

  • 220g oats (any type)
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 70ml sunflower oil
  • 30ml water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 blackberries (optional –  they’re in season so pick them from the hedgerows!)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/ gas mark 5.

2. Whizz the oats with a blender or a hand blender until it is a coarse flour. It should only take a few seconds. Set aside 20g and put the rest in a large bowl. Mix with the brown sugar and baking powder. Add the vanilla essence, oil and water. Mix again.

3. With your two hands, scoop up a small bit of the mixture and push your thumb against your fingers three times, until the mixture has been pushed back into the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees. Repeat until the mixture resembles sandy breadcrumbs.

4. Squash the mixture into a ball of dough and on a floured surface using the 20g remaining oats, then shape into a round circle or a rectangle, about 1cm thick. Cut into 8 triangles or squares. Push a blackberry into the centre of each one.

5. Bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Fudgiest ever (vegan) chocolate brownies

Holy moly, I’ve done it. I have found the greatest chocolate bar on the planet. It is like one big bar of Nutella because it is made with hazelnut paste and hazelnut cocoa cream. It is also massive, it is smooth and it is crunchy, it is purity, it is ataraxia, it is my relationship status. Oh, and it’s vegan.

So I have done a clever one and made it the melty middle inside some extremely fudgy vegan chocolate brownies.

Go forth, bakers, and foller.

By the way, the chocolate bar is called Vego, it really is quite expensive at roughly £3 per 150g bar (shop around) but quite clearly I believe it is worth it.

Why is this eco?

This recipe is vegan, meaning no butter or eggs. Instead of butter I used vegetable oil (rapeseed) which has about half the carbon footprint. I’ve written about swapping butter for oil before if you want to know the numbers.

Vego bars are also organic, which is seen as a more sustainable way of farming. And they don’t contain palm oil – unlike many other chocolate bars. Rainforests are still being torn down in the name of palm oil. It is immensely damaging to animals, local people and the climate.

Vego bars are also Fairtrade. Just eat the chocolate, okay.

RECIPE

Makes 9 brownies

** TIME KLAXON**
You will need to leave the batter to rest for at least four hours. This lets the flour and cocoa absorb the liquid and results in a chewy, fudgy brownie rather than a cakey, crumbly one. It also means no weird vegan substitute for eggs.

Ingredients

  • 80ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 80g dark chocolate (check it’s vegan, dark usually is)
  • 1tsp instant coffee
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g bar of Vego (or other vegan chocolate if you must)

Method

  1. In a saucepan over a low heat, warm the oil and regular dark chocolate until it melts. Take it off the heat, stir in the coffee then add the water and brown sugar. Whisk until combined.
  2. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the chocolate/oil/sugar mixture steadily, whisking all the time. Add the vanilla.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  4. Heat oven to 170C/ 150C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin with baking parchment. You can use a 20cm tin but take 2 minutes off the cooking time.
  5. Pour the mixture into the brownie tin. Break the Vego bar down the segment lines and then chop in half lengthways. That gives you 10 pieces. Imagine a grid of 9 brownies in your tin and place a Vego piece into the centre of each one, pressing down until you hit the bottom of the tin. Like so:
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes, then cut into 9 squares. Devour.

The amazing vegan onion bhaji sandwich

Vegan food can induce fomo but it can also be stupidly delicious. Meat-eaters and vegans alike, meet the amazing vegan onion bhaji sandwich. Addition of either chutney, pickle or even houmous is mandatory. Take it to a picnic or just be frank with your feelings and cuddle it in bed.

As a bonus, these bhajis are very low-fat as they are baked instead of deep-fried AND they’re gluten-free.

How is this eco?

Vegan diets create the lowest levels of greenhouse gases while veggie diets have half the footprint of meat diets. Bhajis instead of a burger? That’s around 1/14th of the footprint.

The United Nations has been advocating a less meaty diet to help the climate for more than a decade. Europeans eat 70% more protein than needed for a healthy diet. And rearing the animals that we eat contributes to 14.5% of global man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. Eat the bhajis people, it makes sense.

RECIPE

Makes 2 huge sandwiches

Ingredients

For the bhajis

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

3 onions

2 tbsp cooking oil such as rapeseed or vegetable

A pinch of salt

Half a bunch of finely chopped fresh coriander

70g chickpea or gram flour (now in many supermarkets)

3 tbps lemon juice

2 tbsps grated ginger

For the sandwich

2 baguettes

Pickle, chutney or houmous (beetroot pickle works particularly well)

Spinach or salad leaves

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C/ 190C fan/ 350F/ gas mark 5. Toast the cumin and coriander in a frying pan for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat. Blend the seeds in a spice blender or a pestle and mortar or keep them whole if you possess neither.

Finely chop the onions into thin half moons.IMG_1230

Using the same pan, heat the oil for a minute then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until translucent.

In a big bowl combine the salt, coriander, ginger, lemon juice and spices with a couple of tablespoons of water. Mix to make a thick sticky batter that isn’t runny at all.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Add the onions and mix well to coat them completely.

Cover an oven tray with baking parchment. Use your hands to form 8 bhajis. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water to stop the mixture sticking.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn over the bhajis then bake for 15 minutes more.

Onion bhajis

Slice the baguettes, spread your pickle or chutney generously. Add the bhajis then cram in the leaves.