Sunday, 25 September 2016

Ambiente Tapas Call's Landing Leeds 24th September 2016

I was meeting up with friends in Leeds and as we all love tapas, I contacted Ambiente Tapas who also have sites in York, to ask about vegan options and felt happy I would be well fed, so booked for Saturday lunch.

Ambiente has a chilled atmosphere, great decor and was light, bright and airy and very inviting from the outside too.

I chose a Fuenteseca Sauvignon Blanc wine, having had it before, knew it was vegan and an excellent wine to boot.   Although the wine list labelled wines vegetarian, maybe Ambiente could extend it to include vegan ones too, sure their vegan customers would appreciate it.

I ordered the vegetarian platter, without the non vegan empanadas, with a vegan portion of patavas bravas.   The platter included charred artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, palm hearts, olive tapenade and tomato chutney, bread, olives and almonds.   The presentation was fantastic, made me want to tuck in, even more so, when the equally delicious looking bravas arrived on the table.

I loved the food and had no complaints and apart from the fact that I was fit to burst, would have partaken of the vegan dessert, strangely enough the only dish labelled vegan on the menu, and the strange title of Moroccan Snake Bread.

Overall the experience was great, service throughout was friendly, helpful and efficient and the food was really delicious so I will definitely revisit.

Carluccio's Spinningfields Manchester 23rd September 2016

Carluccio's has been another place on my to visit radar, so I booked for dinner, whilst on an evening out in Manchester.   The main city venue is in Spinningfields, with another outlet at Piccadilly station.

The added bonus is their vegan menu, offering only a small selection of options, but compared to other Italian outlets is most welcome.

Inside it is modern, light and airy and we had a lovely table for four, so plenty of room, for just the two of us.

I kicked off with a Campari and soda and some delicious giant Sicilian green olives, with a name like mine, I am a bit of an olive expert and these were delicious.

To start I chose caponata an aubergine sweet and sour stew, served chilled with focaccia bread, this was a lovely tasty dish.

Main course was spaghetti pomodoro, which was the weakest dish of the night, the tomato sauce was quite dry and needed a big glug of olive oil and was severely under seasoned.   Spaghetti pomodoro, a dish made of simple ingredients should be stunning, but sadly not on this occasion.

I chose a sides of broccolini, with chilli, garlic and almonds, a star dish and far superior to the pasta, in fact the components in larger quantities, would make a great topping for pasta.

Service by Alberto our waiter, was friendly, helpful and any request quickly dealt with, so I was well looked after.   I enjoyed the evening, but with so many places offering vegan options, competition is hot and I am not sure I would rush back.   Italian cuisine is my favourite and I have been lucky enough to dine out all over Italy, so know the vegan offerings could be so much more exciting at Carluccios'.

Brewdog Peter Street Manchester 23rd September 2016

Brewdog has been on my radar for ages, as I was dying to try their vegan Hail Seitan burger and a Friday lunchtime visit to Manchester was the day.   I made an enquiry a week before our visit, to ask about gluten free bread for my husband, with the positive reply being they would ensure something was available.

I also wanted to check out their Vegan Society trademark range of beers, which is a huge step forward, by a major brewer (see here).   I chose Dead Pony Club, a strange name for a vegan beer, but nothing strange about the taste, I am not even a beer drinker, but I loved it.

I love the vibe of Brewdog, punk style with attitude, minimalist but totally chilled, all the staff on the day I visited, were fantastic to deal with, friendly, helpful and smiling.

There are two vegan options on the menu, the Hail Seitan burger and the Soy Division tofu dog (vegan option available).

I chose the burger and Steven the tofu dog, as a gluten free option and it would have been rude not to have fries.

I could use all kinds of superlatives, to describe the Hail Seitan burger, but will only use one 'Stupendous' it was meaty in texture, tasty, tender, delicious and plenty of it, on a lovely light wholemeal bun with thin fries.    Dead Pony Club alongside to wash it down and it was a 100% perfect vegan lunch.

The tofu dog was equally delicious and we loved its quirky presentation, on very light gluten free buns.   Our plates were clean when the waiter came to clear the table and I mentioned how good the seitan was and my failures to make anything like edible at home. He told us the seitan was homemade and even explained the process, which was about five hours, so maybe I need to give it another go.

I loved Brewdog and it is always good to know, where you can find vegan options, so I will be back.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Roasted Cauliflower & Cannellini Pesto Mash

I wanted a new cauliflower dish to try and found this recipe, courtesy of Jamie Oliver.   I changed it slightly, as I was missing some ingredients, but rest assured this dish is divine, an absolute cracker.

1 onion thinly sliced
1 cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
400 g can cannellini beans
15 g almonds
50 g cooked spinach
Pinch of chilli powder
1 tsp lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Serves 2

Pre-heat the oven to 180°.   Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower and trim the stalk.   Cook the whole cauliflower in boiling water for 3 mins, drain and refresh in cold water.

Cut the cauliflower into 2 cm thick slices and place on a baking tray.   Some florets will fall off, but arrange them on the tray alongside the slices.   Mix 1 tbsp oil with the chilli powder and brush onto the cauliflower and cook in the oven, until browned and tender, when pierced with a knife.

Put 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and cook the onion, until browned and crisp, then set aside on kitchen roll, to remove excess oil.

Toast the almonds in a dry pan until golden brown, being careful not to burn them.

Blitz the spinach, lemon zest, almonds, remaining oil and plenty salt and pepper, until you get a smooth green pesto.

Drain the cannellini beans, reserving 2 tbsp of their liquid, place in a pan and mash with a potato masher, then mix in the pesto and warm through.

Divide the pesto mash between two plates, top with the cauliflower and crispy onions and to add more colour I served with roast cherry tomatoes.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Warm Cauliflower Saffron & Olive Salad

This is great as a side dish, or I could quite happily have it for lunch, with plenty crusty bread, to mop up the juices.

1 cauliflower
Few strands of saffron
25 g raisins
5 green olives
5 black olives
25 g pine nuts
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)

Heat the oven to 180°.   Soak the saffron in 150 ml hot water for 10 mins.   Chop the olives, removing the stones, put into a bowl with the oil, vinegar, raisins, then check the seasoning, as I found the olives added enough salt to the dressing.

Cut the cauliflower into florets, put in a roasting dish and spoon the saffron mixture over, coating the cauliflower with the lovely yellow liquid.  

Season with salt and pepper and cook until just starting to brown and the liquid has been absorbed.   Add the pine nuts and cook until the cauliflower is soft and the pine nuts lightly toasted.

Pour the olive dressing over the cauliflower and mix thoroughly, ensuring the cauliflower is completely coated with the delicious dressing.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Cashew & Chestnut Sausages

This recipe originated from two recipes, both containing tofu, egg and cheese, so I tweaked to make them vegan and gluten free.   The sausages are fabulous, hold their shape, fry easily and make an awesome sandwich.

300 g cashews
200 g vac-packed chestnuts
1 onion chopped
150 g carrots chopped
100 g oats (glutenfree)
1 red chilli chopped
1 tbsp rosemary chopped
1 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy or tamari sauce)
Chickpea flour
Salt and pepper

Makes 15-17 sausages depending on how big you want to make them

Soak the cashews overnight in water, drain and put into a food processor, with the chestnuts and blitz till chopped.

Scrape the nuts into a bowl, add the carrot and onion to the processor and blitz until finely chopped.

Add all the ingredients to the carrot and onion mixture, with plenty salt and pepper and blitz, stopping to scrape down the mixture into the bowl.   At this stage you may need liquid to help bind, depending on the moisture in the carrots and the oats you use.   If the mixture is too dry mix 20 g chickpea flour with 60 ml water, making sure to remove any lumps.

Add to the mixture little by little, until you have a sausage meat like consistency, persevere with this part of the recipe as it takes time, dependent on how powerful your food processor is.

I wear vinyl gloves and roll the sausages on cling film, otherwise they stick to the work surface.

I weighed 70 g of mixture per sausage and it made fifteen, which I put on a baking tray, to freeze before putting into a freezer bag.