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… the vegan hangover…

Let me start this post by saying, I am in no way a ‘perfect’ vegan. As I’ve spoken about in the past I find the label ‘vegan’ itself problematic. I eat a mainly plant based diet, and I want to protect animals, and save a little bit of the world while I do it. However, sometimes I slip, sometimes I presume something is vegan friendly only to check the ingredients afterwards and find some unnecessary animal product included, and sometimes there is cake.

I see my relationship to food a little bit like I see my relationship to alcohol. I know some thing’s, like gin, aren’t good for me but every now and then I still indulge.

One thing I don’t indulge in anymore is cheese.

And I know this is where a lot of none vegans out there will have let out a gasp of pain and horror. Cheese is delicious, I know this. I never gave up cheese because I didn’t like it. I gave it up because I did some reading, and could no longer separate the cheese from where it came from. Don’t worry I’m not about to go into that.

However, I also read into meat, and where the ingredients in my beloved cake, and fish come from and yet I can still eat those, so why is cheese my one no go area?

Because physically, cheese, makes me feel dreadful.

One weekend a couple of months back I was caught out in a coffee shop. I had the shakes and needed to eat something solid pronto. It was late in the day and the only option they had that didn’t involve meat was a cheese toastie. I couldn’t get home so I ordered the toastie, and guiltily ate (and admittedly enjoyed) my first cheese binge in nearly 6 months. Later that day I was back home, in bed with crippling tummy pains. I told myself I’d been ill all day and this must be part of that. A week later I was out celebrating my dads birthday, and the veggie option I’d ordered arrived with a cheese topping. Not wanting to kick up a fuss, or have to explain again to my family why I’d changed my diet, so drastically, I again ate (and still enjoyed) my meal. Later that night. Crippling tummy pains again. I couldn’t deny it. It was the cheese.

When I first told people I was thinking about going vegan, they warned me this would happen that I would make myself intolerant to things, that just to be safe, I should eat cheese or drink milk every now and then. Something that originally made a little bit of sense to me. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant and find that I absolutely could not eat anything, not out of choice, but because my body would buckle over in pain. But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

I haven’t made myself intolerant to cheese, over 24 years, I’d MADE myself tolerant to it, now my body has had a break it no longer what’s to put up with that, regardless of how delicious it is. And this is where I come back to my alcohol analogy.

You’re body isn’t meant to process alcohol, but it can, until you drink too much and you end up with a dreadful hangover. This is what happens to me and cheese. I can eat one slice and feel fine the next day, if I eat a whole toasties worth, well lets just say it isn’t pretty. I’ve never told somebody ‘oh I’ve got a hangover’ to be met with the response ‘you should drink more often, so that your tolerance is built up’  but with cheese or dairy it’s a different story.

I’m not trying to tell you, don’t eat cheese. And I’m not telling you to stop drinking. I still drink, often more than I should, and the only reason I don’t get the same vegan hangover from a cake as I do from cheese, is because I’m guilty of having kept up my ‘tolerance’ to it. What I’m trying to say, is that with all food, we should question it’s effects on us more, because we’re all clued up on the dangers of alcohol, and a bottle of wine comes with a health warning, but food doesn’t. Those little traffic light labels, are still gobbledygook to most of us, and to be honest the idea that one size fits all, doesn’t really work for me.

Like with you’re favourite beverage, you have to work out where your limit is, whilst also being aware, that just because one gin and tonic doesn’t give you a hangover that doesn’t make it ‘good for you.’

I never wanted to be the ‘fussy vegan’ visiting friends and saying point blank I don’t eat cheese, but that is what my body tells me to, and do you know what, once I explain actually I’m not being fussy, it makes me ill, nobody bats an eye lid. Much like when I tell people ‘I don’t do tequila.’

Live life & please drink/eat responsibly x