mini recipe | roasted broccoli…

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So if there is one thing you should know about August it is that it is going to bankrupt me. Two weekends away on the trot, a big old payment on the old credit card bill, and things like driving lessons and trips to Venice in the autumn all make my purse want to squinch up tight and refuse to let go of any cash unless it absolutely has to. Months like this happen, when everything (and every bill) seems to come all at once. It’s month like this that I thank god I’m a vegan (admittedly not always a very good one) with incredibly simple tastes. Sure you can get all fancy with your health food shops and every pulse under the sun, but like I’ve said many times before, the best way to keep on track and to keep your bank balance happy, is to eat simply. And what can be more simple than Broccoli?

I must admit, in the past I’ve over looked broccoli as an over cooked thing. Is there anything worse than soggy greens? But since going vegan, I’ve started to see that basically all veg has infinite amount of potential (except sprouts). So here’s the story, the other night I came home to look in my fridge and see food in there, but not necessarily food that came together to make a meal. Broccoli, spring onions, sweetcorn, a chilli, potato, hummus, garlic. Sure these things all have their part to play, but where’s the leading role, the one with that extra something special? This is when not so skint me would normally head to the shop, to find something that acted as the main star of the event to compliment the small parts. But not so skint me said ‘there’s no such thing as a small part, just a veg that needs seasoning’ or something like that. ANYWAY the point is, I decided to take shy old broccoli out of the wings, and put it centre stage and this is what happened…

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The cast…

1 medium broccoli
2 spring onions
1 mild chilli
1 large clove of garlic
The zest of a quarter of a lemon
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to season

The production process…

1. Dice the spring onion and the chilli up and throw into a mixing bowl with the minced garlic clove and lemon zest.

2. Add your teaspoon of soy sauce, and cover the ingredients in olive oil.

3. Cut off the florets of the broccoli (you can use the stem too, but this does take longer to roast so just be aware of that when cooking) and throw into the bowl.

4. Make sure all the broccoli is rubbed into the olive oil, chillies, lemon and onion, you can add a little more olive oil if you need to.

5. If you have time, stick the bowl in the fridge to marinate for half an hour (or longer if you’re preparing in advance. I didn’t bother with marinating because I was hungry and it was still delicious, but marinating literally makes everything even better.

6. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper and pop your florets on to it in a single layer. If there are still chillies, garlic and onion at the bottom of the bowl make sure you get this onto the tray too, but try not to have any excess oil slithering around, as this leads to soggy broccoli and I’ve already made my feelings on that perfectly clear.

7. Pop into a preheated oven for about 15 minutes and voila, Broccoli’s Hollywood makeover is complete.

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I ate my broccoli with a baked sweet potato, a corn on the cob and some hummus, and while it might not sound like much, it was SO satisfying, in fact I’m thinking of printing out the above picture and sticking it on my fridge to remind me just how much I enjoy eating food without any fuss, or drama queen antics!

This was also delicious,cold the day after for lunch, and I’m also thinking that for a picnic, it would be perfect served up with some new potatoes also roasted the same way. Maybe some sour dough bread. Ooo and pearl cous cous.

Now I’m hungry, and I also completely lost track of my stage conceit, but you can’t say I’m not at least trying to bring my two loves of theatre and food together!

Let me know if you try this, or roasting any other veg in the same way. I’m thinking maybe some cauliflower would compliment it perfectly?

Live life & never underestimate the humble broccoli x

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Review | The Gate, Islington…

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Happy Saturday everyone! What are your plans for today? I’m currently on route to Ingleton for a weekend of walking and waterfalls! No doubt many of you will have weekend plans which involve going out for dinner, whether that’s a date night, girls and cocktails or Sunday lunch tomorrow.

One of the things that makes me feel most uncomfortable about having gone vegan, is how much other people worry about what you are going to eat when you go out for a meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I have friends and family that care enough to make sure I’m well fed, but I hate being the reason people can’t concentrate on what they want to order because they are too busy worrying that there isn’t anything for me to order.

Truth be told, in most decent restaurants (ie. not chain pubs) it’s actually pretty easy for me to find something to eat, but I can see why this might be hard for other people to understand. Of course the best place for me to eat is a restaurant dedicated to vegetarian food, but unfortunately these aren’t always the easiest places to convince meat eating friends to go to.

And with good reason. So many vegetarian restaurants, or vegan eateries, let all the best things about eating out fall to the way side. It’s so rare to find a vegetarian cafe where the food isn’t only delicous but the decor is delectable too. Esepcially up north, in London town you do have a few more options.

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One of these options is The Gate in Islington.

It’s a lot easier to convince meat eating friends to eat at a vegetarian restaurant if it looks good, but what really maters is the food. Because when you’re the one who suddenly has a whole menu of food to choose from, and your sat with none veggie friends, suddenly you’re in their shoes, and you’re worrying about what they are going to eat. Of course everything on the menu sounds delicous to me, but is it going to sound delicous to the guy who eats fried chicken once a day?

Luckily, at The Gate, the answer is yes. On it’s ‘A’ board outside, The Gate boasts a review which says ‘The Gate isn’t a good vegetarian restaurant, it’s just a good restaurant’ and that sums it up in a single sentence what I am likely to spend this whole blog post doing!

The decor is modern, open and very clean looking, the staff are friendly, informed, and seat you to your table in that ‘we’re in a proper restaurant’ manner that makes the difference between grabbing something to eat while you’re out, and going out for dinner.

The menu, while having a good range of dishes to choose from, wasn’t so big you felt like they were trying to cover everything instead of doing any one thing well. Which isn’t something that can always be said about a place that has mexican and thai food on the menu, but I can say from personal experience that when it came to those two cullinary influences, they’d pretty much nailed it. I went for the thai curry which was very clearly labelled as being vegan and my friends went for a trio of wraps which included, beetroot, goats cheese and sweet potato (again this could have been made vegan if you asked) and after the obligatory ‘oh my gosh this looks amazing lets take a photo’ moment we all devoured our main course. And the side of polenta chips that we ordered to go with it. And, for that matter, the second side of polenta chips we ordered after the first lot ran out. My thai curry was delicous, creamy and fragrant, and my friends both loved their wraps. Not a single person mentioned the C word (chicken). In fact my friends were so full they passed up on pudding. I, however, did not.

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Using the excuse (as if I needed one) that I so rarely have the option of a vegan chocolate torte that it would be foolish to say no. Besides the more people who demand vegan pudding, the more places that will start to supply it right?

Now forgive me, because it’s been a couple of weeks since my visit to The Gate, but I can’t remember exactly what my dessert was called (and I’m a rubbish blogger who doesn’t get around to doing reviews when they happen) but it was essentially a chocolate mouse, with black cherries, on a base of crushed nuts and dates. And it was to die for. Which naturally is the most important thing to remember when reviewing dessert.

We all left feeling full to the brim on good food, but not feeling sickly, which for me, is one of the best things about eating vegan. The Gate isn’t cheap but a main meal was no more than you would expect to pay in any other restaurant where the food is freshly prepared, the staff know what they are talking about and the none alcoholic cocktails are so good you kind of feel drunk afterwards.  It treads the line between being just a little too expensive to pop in for a bite to eat, but not so expensive that you need it to be a special occassion to book a table! Having said that, it is in London and I am Northern, so I’d use the word reasonably priced, and expect some one to tell me, actually for that area it’s a bargain!

I’d definitely recommend The Gate to any foodie, whether your vegan, veggie, or fully fledged carnivore, and I hope other places start to take note of restaurants like this which encourage other vegetarian places to up their game, and show none vegetarian restaurants that the veggie option doesn’t always have to be some cheese based pasta dish or a quiche.

Have you ever been to The Gate? Or do you have a favourite restaurant which just so happens to be vegetarian? If you do let me know, I’m always looking for recommendations!

Live life & eat your greens x

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going vegan… am i a fraud

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Happy Wednesday everyone! How are you this week? Today I have another post about going vegan for you and how presuming that a label has one meaning for everyone can be hugely detrimental, so hopefully even if you’re not thinking of going vegan, this will give you some food for thought.

When I started thinking about going vegan I was worried that it would be too big a commitment and how it would effect my life. I have incredibly inspiring amazing friends who commit their entire life to being a vegan, and as much as I completely admire them for that, I wasn’t sure that THAT level was for me. I spent a long time worried that going vegan would change my whole life in a way I wasn’t ready for. Did ‘going vegan mean I would have to throw away my favourite shoes and hand bag? Would it change other peoples view on me? What about dating – would I now have to only date vegans, because they would be the only ones who understood? And then I realised that I wasn’t interested in becoming a label, and I hadn’t begun to think about things like vegan cosmetics or materials, because for now, those things were not on my radar. Primarily I was interested in changing my diet, to a plant based, healthier regime that, if it wasn’t entirely vegan, definitely resembled it. I wasn’t going to let a label define me, but instead set my own definition, and that in turn made the changes I wanted to make, so much easier to do.

For one month I ate strictly vegan. No slip ups, no exceptions. At the end of the month I felt great. I’d lost weight and I had more energy than I had had in months. I knew that a vegan based diet was for me. However, I wasn’t sure how strict I wanted to be with this. I love eating out, and not a single other person in my family is even a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. Did I want to start enforcing my lifestyle choices on others? Did I want to be the only person at the table not having a slice of cake? In truth? The answer is no I didn’t. So I set some rules of my own:

  1. I would eat entirely vegan at home
  2. I would eat vegan when I was out as much as possible
  3. If the cake looks truly worth it I’m going to have a slice
  4. I never want my lifestyle choices to cause anyone any bother

What do these rules mean? They mean, at home I live by a plant based diet, I don’t buy meat or dairy products, or anything that has any animal produce in it. When I go out, I scour the menu for anything that fits the same diet I live by at home. Sometimes that means ordering several sides, sometimes you strike lucky with a specific ‘vegan option.’ I don’t ask to see a list of ingredients, but I do ask them to adapt things if it is easy enough (eg. pizza without cheese). I love eating out, the whole idea is that it should be an enjoyable experience, and for me, that means not making anything too difficult for myself or for the restaurant.  I don’t order cake when I am out very often. Lets face it, cake from chain coffee shops isn’t that good anyway, and unless I’m in a super nice independent cafe, where I know the cake hasn’t been ordered in I just don’t think it is worth it. But my boss at work is an incredible baker, and for everyone’s birthday he makes us a cake. A cake I know will be delicious, and is only really once a month, so yes, I will have a slice.

And as for not wanting to cause any bother, here is my thinking…

Most of the time I tell people I am a vegan, because for me, being a vegan is actually really easy. Cook me a plate of veg and I will be happy. But would my nan cook me a plate of veg and feel like she had given me a meal? No she wouldn’t. She’d want an extensive list of things I do and don’t eat, and she’d spend hours trying to find something elaborate and impressive to cook me, and would still fret that it wasn’t a ‘real dinner.’ Veganism is getting more and more widely acknowledged by people, it’s even, thankfully, understood by a growing amount of people. But still, sometimes it is easier to just say you’re a vegetarian, especially if your nan is nearing her 90’s.

Maybe then, this makes me a fraud? And I do worry about this. For a start I only eat a vegan diet, I don’t live a vegan lifestyle. I am still ignorant as to what is in my make up draw, and my favourite shoes are made of leather. This isn’t something I’m proud of, and it is something that in the coming years I do want to change but for now, I can’t claim to truly be a vegan in the purest sense of the word. As for the rules of my vegan diet? Well I am getting stricter in that, the more I find my feet with it, and the more confidence I have in explaining to other people what veganism is, and why I do it, but for now I still have the occasional slip up where I will be halfway through eating something only to read the ingreedients to find milk or egg hiding in there.

I don’t live vegan, and I’m not perfect in my vegan diet. But this doesn’t make me a fraud. I made my own rules and I live by them. Sometimes giving something a label can be detrimental, because while it can help identify something, as with all the choices we have to make in life, there is no one size fits all.

For me, going vegan meant, doing the best I could for my diet and the planet around me, but also accepting that I am human, and that I still want to live my life in a way that I enjoyed. One day that may mean living a vegan life in all areas, and being as amazing and inspiring as my friends are, but for now I am doing my best with good intentions.

So if you are thinking of going vegan, but worried about what this really means, take a step back, and ask yourself, why you want to go vegan, and also how you think going vegan will change your life, in both positive and negative ways. Once you’ve done that you’ll soon be able to find your own rules. And remember there is nothing fraudulent in being honest, but also that just cutting down your intake of meat or animal produce by 50% is making a difference.

Live life & be honest about making your own rules x