Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Willow Tree Cafe The Cellar Trust Farfield Road Shipley - 29th July 2018

The Willow Tree Cafe is a 100% vegan cafe run by Shaun and Stacey, in Shipley Yorkshire, located in The Cellar Trust building, utilising their catering facilities on Saturday and Sunday.  They are moving into new permanent premises in about five to six weeks, just around the corner. 

I have been salivating over their vegan creations for a few weeks and just had to try their banana blossom fish and chips with mushy peas, so I contacted Shaun and booked a table for lunch.   Shaun thinks the current menu is limited due to kitchen restrictions, though personally I think it is vegan heaven, but he has loads of new ideas for the menu, once he has moved.

Shaun messaged me the day before our visit, to say he would save me a banana blossom fish, as they were selling out fast.   We arrived in pouring rain, so sadly we could not sit in the small outside seating area, but we were both starving, so with fish and chips on order for for me, Steven chose sweet potato and chickpea curry with cumin rice and a side of fries.

The banana blossom fish was amazing, perfectly cooked with a firm texture, flaking very much like fish and reminiscent of jackfruit and makes a fantastic fish alternative.   The dish exceeded my expectations, the batter was dry, light and crisp, with fabulous chips and mushy peas, a pretty perfect vegan lunch and a cracker of a dish.    If you are gluten free and let Shaun know in advance, he can also make a gluten free fish and chips, so you do not miss out on this spectacular dish.

Steven's curry was equally as good, packed with flavour, not too spicy on the heat front, with perfectly cooked rice and crisp fries, another winning dish, we left clean plates.

We had a small break then, as we were quite full and had a quick chat with Shaun, who kindly nipped home to bring me a can of banana blossom (clearly labelled vegan) to try at home, what a guy.

We then moved onto to dessert, Stacey made a soya free cake specially, so it would have been rude not to partake, how could you resist a big slice of chocolate and strawberry cake, whilst Steven chose vanilla and fruit loaf.   The cakes were fabulous, lovely and moist with loads of chocolate buttercream on mine and icing on Steven's, a spot on finish to lunch.

I cannot recommend The Willow Tree cafe highly enough, I love Shaun's enthusiasm for cooking and his attention to detail to customer requests.   Its a fair drive for us to get there, but it is sure worth it, I will definitely be returning, once they are in their new home.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Mushroom Scallops, Black Pudding & Pea Puree

I created this as a dinner party dish, for my non vegan elderly neighbours, as a vegan take on the classic version and they absolutely loved it.   I use The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company V Pud, which is the best vegan black pudding in my opinion, so much so my neighbour asked me to get her six.

150 g frozen peas
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 vegan black pudding
250 g chestnut mushrooms
Salt and pepper

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Cook the peas for 2 mins, drain and refresh with cold water to retain their vibrant green colour.

Blitz the peas, 1 tbsp oil and plenty salt and pepper with a stick blender, until you get a rough puree, then leave to one side whilst you cook the mushrooms and black pudding.

Cut the mushrooms and black pudding into thick slices.   Heat the remaining oil in a pan, add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until browned, then put to one side of the pan.   

Add the black pudding to the pan, with more oil if needed and cook on each side for 5 mins till it is nice and brown.

Reheat the pea puree either in the microwave or in a pan, then put three to four blobs on each plate, top with black pudding and arrange the mushrooms on top and around the plate.  Drizzle with a little more oil.   I also made this dish with shitake mushrooms, which I think makes for an even better dish, but its a cracker whichever mushrooms you use.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Eighth Day Cafe Oxford Road Manchester 27th July 2018

Eighth Day Co-Operative was established in the 1970's by a group of friends, looking to change the way goods were traded and the rest, as they say, is history.  The iconic and well loved Eighth Day is located near Manchester University and incorporates a cosy cafe downstairs and a shop upstairs.

I called in for breakfast with Steven, as it was a ten minute walk from our hotel and we were starving, as dinner the night before at Real Junk Food Project, was a lightweight dinner with tiny portions.   I chose avocado on sourdough toast, with tomatoes and mushrooms and Steven a gluten free full vegan breakfast, two teas and almond milk.

I think the photos say it all, just look at those full plates of vegan deliciousness, we could not fault either dish, well cooked, perfectly seasoned, scrumptious and devoured in a flash.

There was a huge display of vegan cakes in the chiller cabinet, all made by The Black Cat Bakery in Ardwick, its rare you see such a huge selection.   I was very tempted but I was full as a gun, a good excuse to make a return visit though, but last visit I tried the sticky ginger cake and very moreish it was too.

The shop is a fabulous place too, with loads of vegan goodies, from toiletries and supplements to dry goods like nuts, spices and herbs, seeds, grains, pulses, flours to chocolate and sweets, an excellent chilled section, with loads of cheeses, spreads, vegan meat and sausages.   I was over the moon to see my favourite V Pud vegan black pudding, so I stocked up, in fact I bought their entire stock, that's me sorted for a few weeks.

Eighth Day is highly recommended for any vegans visiting Manchester city centre, I will certainly be returning very soon.

Friday, 20 July 2018

My Vegan Dining Adventures Part Six Gordon Ramsay

If you read part one of My Vegan Dining Adventures, it was Heathcotes who introduced me to vegan Michelin dining, spurring me on to write to celebrity chefs, to see who would cater for me.   It was 2001 and first on my list was Gordon Ramsay, having seen him on television in Boiling Point and knowing his dislike of vegans, I was expecting either no response or a big two fingers.

I actually received a lovely letter from his father in law Chris Hutcheson, asking me to ring him, as Gordon was up for the challenge.   You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I rang Mr Hutcheson and made a reservation and looked forward to the date, with some trepidation.  Three Michelin Star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, on Royal Hospital Road London was Gordon's only restaurant at the time, although he was just about to take over the kitchen and dining room at Claridge's.

On arrival I was treated like royalty, the Restaurant Manager shook my hand and said it was a pleasure to welcome their first vegan diner, as he showed us to the best table for two at the far end of the room, facing into the restaurant, with prime seats to watch evening service.

I had no mobile phone that took photos back then and taking a camera really was not an option, I would have felt too self conscious.   The food was truly stunning, sadly my memory is shot at and I cannot remember what I had, mind you it was seventeen years ago.  Ronan the wine sommelier came over and said when we finished our coffee Gordon would like to meet us, which is the last thing I was expecting.

We were shown into the kitchen, where the chefs were lined up at the pass and we had a chat with Head Chef Mark Askew, a Yorkshire lad from Rathmell, a really nice guy.   Suddenly the doors burst open and in strides Gordon, who walked to the end of the pass and faced us all.  The first words that came out of his mouth were 'Now then lads this is Mrs V that f*cking vegan I was telling you about'.  What a welcome but to be expected, after all one of his television programmes was called the F word, it was all in jest though, he really does like to take the mick. 

We had a brief chat and he was interested in why I was vegan, not in a derogatory way, he just could not get his head round the fact, that I did not eat all the lovely produce, as he called it, he loved to cook with.   He then said 'I was going to give you a signed copy of my latest recipe book, but there is f*ck all in it you can eat'.   I cannot remember what I said, but being a mouthy Lancashire lass, who can give as good as I get, I cheekily fired back at him, so he took me back through the restaurant to his office and signed a copy of the book and gave it me.

Gordon then sat with us in reception for a further chat and told us all about his plans for Claridge's with its chefs table in the kitchen and said we should visit.   His parting words were if I wanted to revisit, to give his father in law a ring.

I have no idea what the other diners thought, because Gordon never spoke with any of them, it was a bit embarrassing to be honest.   Do I think Gordon hates vegans as he portrays in the press and on social media, definitely not, its all bluster he just likes to wind people up and he is brilliant at it.

I never did make it to Claridge's under his leadership or back to Royal Hospital Road either, but Gordon was wrong, there were a couple of recipes in his book once veganised that I could eat and damn delicious they were too.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Riverside Deli Gisburn Road Barrowford 11th July 2018

Riverside Deli is a newly opened vegan and vegetarian deli, in the village of Barrowford, not far from Burnley.   They sell various food items, as well as takeaway sandwiches, stews, soups and cakes which change on a daily basis.

I called in with Steven on a beautiful sunny Wednesday for a sandwich and cake, to have lunch in the lovely park right across the road. 

Riverside Deli is only small, but there was a constant stream of people coming in for various items, just shows how popular vegan food is, especially as Barrowford is thin on the ground where vegan is concerned.

I ordered jackfruit wrap loaded with salad, spiralised courgettes and houmous and I could not resist a coconut cupcake, after spotting them in the chiller cabinet. 

Steven ordered a tofu wrap, filled with lots of salad, houmous and chilli sauce and a chocolate ginger slice to finish.

The wraps were a good sized portion with plenty filling, packed with flavour and we both said they were the best vegan sandwich we have eaten in a long time.   We love to support independents and the wraps put to shame any you can purchase in one of the chains.   The cakes were equally impressive, moist and delicious with their individual flavours shining through, we were sorry to finish them they were that good.

What a great addition Riverside Deli is to Barrowford and how lucky are the residents to have it on their doorstep, if I lived there I would be unable to keep away.   We will definitely make the journey to revisit.