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Veganuary 2019 | Sweet Potato Peanut Stew, Fake Nando’s and Food Shame

*taps mic*.. this thing still on?

If anything was going to bring your old pal Cate out of the woodwork, it was going to be Veganuary. I’ve delved into the depths of my brain LastPass folder to recover my WordPress password, I’ve dusted off my keyboard, I’ve remembered how to string a sentence together. Let’s do this.

So, how’s it going?

By far the easiest transition to Veganuary I’ve had to date. I don’t know if its down to the mass uptake of the challenge nationally, the delight I find in novelty of any kind or just my body’s sheer desperation for an increase in vegetables after a month of surviving on whisky and crisps, but it’s been entirely painless.

I’d like to say that a widened availability of vegan products has contributed to how I’ve found my first week as it has for many others, but to be honest I’ve hardly touched them. I haven’t even gotten a Greggs vegan sausage roll down my gullet yet. I’ve rediscovered my love of food prep and signed up for weekly Riverford veg boxes. I’ve gone all in.

One drawback? The bloating. Fuck me, the bloating. My friends are all sick of the sight of my belly after a week of nightly WhatsApps to the tune of “Look! Look at how pregnant I look! Can you believe that! I’m not even pushing my stomach out! This is just what it looks like now!!”

If you’re taking part in Veganuary for the first time: please be reassured that no, you’re not alone and yes, this does stop eventually. It’s your body getting used to an increase in veg and pulses and just flipping out a little bit over such a drastic change. If you’re still bloated or uncomfortable this time next week, it might be worth breaking down what you’re eating and seeing what’s going on.

Vegan Nando’s

Pretend meat products are an expensive (and packaging-heavy) route to go down during Veganuary, so I don’t tend to veer in their direction particularly often. However, I’m a firm believer in following ones food cravings all the way to the freezer aisle and when I had a right hankering for a Nando’s, that’s exactly what I did.

Pictured above are vegan Quorn nuggets, chips with peri peri salt, peas with grated garlic, lemon juice and rapeseed oil stirred through and a generous helping of Nando’s peri peri sauce.

Verdict on the vegan Quorn nuggets: they don’t taste like chicken any more than chicken nuggets taste like chicken, but they have the same warm, familiar, stodgy, beige quality that chicken nuggets have, and are therefore a perfectly acceptable substitute.

The Great Sausage Roll Debate

It’s unlikely to have escaped your attention that this week, there has been a lot of feuding across social media sparked by – but not limited to the subject matter of – the Greggs vegan sausage roll.

I kept my head below the parapet for most of this week where internet beef (or internet beef substitute) was concerned (who has the time??!), but when I saw a journalist utter the words “What is the point of anything that isn’t healthy?”, I couldn’t help but weigh in a little bit.

Even as I write this, I’m still struggling to get past the fact that somebody involved with food professionally could hold such a stance. I wanted to share my response to that view here, to serve as a permanent reminder that food goes beyond sustenance and nutrition – two things that I’m suddenly questioned about relentlessly during Veganuary.

Food is quite literally life. Be it fresh, local organic vegetables or cold chicken balls dipped in questionable, slightly congealing sweet chilli sauce leftover from last night’s Chinese. It can, and should, spark joy and be respected and celebrated for more than just its nutritional content.

Peanut, Garlic, Ginger and Sweet Potato Stew with Coconut Sticky Rice

This is a meal I knocked up before going back to work to see me through dinner times on my 12-8 shifts. I posted it on Twitter and a lot of you asked for the recipe, at the time I gave out some half arsed instructions and the ingredients, here’s the real deal:

Serves 4
Stew: 

3 sweet potatoes, 1 red pepper, 3 cloves garlic, two thumb sized pieces of ginger, 3 tbsps peanut butter, 2 tbsps chilli bean sauce, 1 tbsp bouillon powder + 750ml water (or 750ml any veg stock)

Thinly slice the garlic and ginger into slivers. Heat 1 tbsp oil (I used rapeseed) in a heavy set pan and fry gently. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into small chunks. Add sweet potatoes to garlic and ginger. Chop red pepper into 1 cm chunks and add to the pan.

In a measuring jug (or other convenient receptacle) mix the peanut butter, chilli bean sauce and stock until combined. Pour over the vegetables. Bring to boil then simmer very gently until the sweet potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick and delicious. Check after twenty minutes or so.

Sticky coconut rice: 

1 small mug rice, 1 can coconut milk, 1 small mug cold water, pinch salt

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer until rice is cooked. Refer to pack instructions on rice cooking time, but keep a close eye on it yourself – once all the moisture has been absorbed and it looks done, it’s probably done.

Thanks for still paying any attention to what I have to say about anything when I abandoned you for 9 months without a word

I’ll be back this time next week with more of the same, I hope. Until then..

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4 Quick, (Mostly) Vegetarian Dinners for Spring

Typically, the weather is yet to make up its mind about which season we’re currently experiencing. I’ve been pushing on with spring regardless under the guidance of the calendar alone – sometimes eating outside, sometimes on the sofa under a blanket wondering how long it’s been since I’ve seen the sky. That’s April for you.

Quick, easy dinners that can be rustled up on a weeknight after a long day at work were my most requested post last year. This year (now that I have a proper job where I have to actually use my brain) that’s all I have time for anyway, so you can expect plenty of these in the months to come.

Spaghetti with Tuna, Capers and Lemon

Spaghetti with Tuna, Capers and Lemon

Boil 150-200g spaghetti in salted water according to pack instructions. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water just before draining. Put it back in the pan with the splash of pasta water and add the juice of a lemon, a can of tuna, a tbsp capers, a generous knob of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Keep the heat under it and keep stirring til rich and saucy. Stir through a handful of chopped fresh parsley just before serving.

Tip: if you want extra greens, stir through a big handful of rocket at the same time as the parsley.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry

I put a call out on Twitter recently for savoury rhubarb recipes and this one from Jenny Chandler blog came highly recommended by Gourmet Goat. I loved it. It was quick to prepare, warming enough to comfort me in the depths of a rain spell but fresh and new enough (thanks to the rhubarb) to be completely appropriate for spring.

Soften onion (1), celery and carrots (2 of each), on a medium heat and add 3 sliced garlic cloves. Stir in 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander and 1/2 tsp chilli flakes. Add 350g rhubarb cut into chunks 150g puy or green lentils (rinsed). Pour in 600ml veg stock, bring to boil then simmer for 20 mins. Add 1 tbsp soft brown sugar, simmer for 5-10 mins more.

Vegan Mac and Cheese with Rocket

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is more commonly used as an autumn and winter staple, but I’m easing it into spring by taking the portion size down just a little and adding a great big handful of greens to the bowl. This recipe makes enough for 4.

Boil 200-300g macaroni and set aside. Cook 30g butter and 30g flour together until a paste forms. Gradually add about half a carton of soya milk, whisking all the time to avoid lumps. Keep the heat low and cook to thicken, whilst adding generous shakes of smoked paprika, cayenne and garlic powder. Add salt to taste. If you have some, throw in a handful of nutritional yeast. Finally, add an entire block of vegan cheese*, grated. Mix the macaroni into the sauce and (if you want, this isn’t a completely necessary step) bake at 180C Fan/Gas Mark 6 for around 20 minutes. Serve with plenty of greens.

* the vegan cheese I recommend most highly/that is most affordable is ASDA’s cheddar alternative. See here.

Tofu and Spinach Curry

Tofu and Spinach Curry

This is the easiest dinner in the world thanks to a vital short cut: jarred curry sauce. If you’ve been reading this blog a while you’ll know it’s not a place for food snobs. If you want to rustle up your own curry sauce for this one, fire away. For me, this is the dinner I can pull out of the bag in 20 minutes with next to no effort after a shit day.

Soften 1 chopped onion then add half a block of pressed tofu, chopped into cubes. Once browned, add half a bag of spinach, tearing with your hands before adding to the pan (quicker than chopping). Pour over a jar of curry sauce (personal fave is Lloyd Grossman tikka masala) and cook until spinach is wilted and sauce is piping hot. Serve with rice.

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Where to Eat in Brighton | March 2018

I’ve had an idea. I’m about to start a new job – a slightly better paid job – which is going to open me up to a little bit of disposable income that will allow me to go out and eat in actual restaurants.

As much as I love to share food finds with you, I’m not so keen on writing about them. I’m no Jay Rayner, full page restaurant reviews are not where my skills lie.

So, I’m gonna round up all the places I’ve eaten and loved each month in this new blog series. It will be titled ‘Where to Eat in Brighton’, be dated for the following month, and detail places that fed me brilliantly in the previous month. I’ll always publish it on the 1st of a new month. Making sense?

From now on you’ll have somewhere that you can check each month to see recent opinions on delicious places to eat in Brighton. This means that you’ve got an easy resource to read and I’ve got a (relatively) small job to do.

A few snaps of the food, a brief description of everything, a real quick in and out to give you just enough info. I can’t be arsed trying to find original ways to discuss the ambience and instagrammability of the interior. Again, I’ll leave that to the experts.

We’ve got a particularly excellent start to this series thanks to February being the birthday month of both me and Tom. We ate out a whole lot, with each other and with other people, to celebrate.

Noodles Soup

37 West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RE

Noodles Soup, West Street, Brighton Review

This is where I took Tom for his birthday lunch after seeing it about six million times on Rosie’s Instagram (which, by the way, is the place to be for Brighton food).

I had the laksa with chicken and egg noodles and Tom had honey roast pork. Along with the dumplings and spring rolls on the side, our meal came to a grand total of £19.90.

I don’t have the authority to call this place authentic, but I can only presume that it’s the real deal. I’ve never had noodle soup like it, the flavour of that broth is something else. The service is delightfully un-British, brisk and to the point. Come here for a quick meal ASAP if you’re a noodle person.

The Salt Room

106 Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2FU

The Salt Room, Brighton

If you’ve got a special occasion on your hands (Mother’s Day very soon), this is the place to book. The Salt Room delivers everything to the highest standard. You’re never gonna leave this place feeling short changed. I definitely recommend you check out their extra AF afternoon tea (which I’ve previously reviewed) but this month my Mum took me for their lunch set menu for my birthday.

3 courses for £20 saw us enjoying an amazing mackerel and pear starter, a main course that was equally divine but its details now escape me (I’ll get better at taking menu pics as this series goes on, I promise) and ginger cake. It’s recommended that you grab a carby side at around the £4 mark to go with your main.

(It’s a seafood restaurant, just an FYI in case you hadn’t clocked from the name and stuff from the sea is not your bag)

The food is outstanding and customers are treated like royalty. Let them know it’s your birthday before booking and they’ll even bring you out some fancy truffles to finish you off.

Petit Pois

70 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AE

Petit Pois, French Restaurant, Brighton

Petit Pois (a cosy little French place not far off the seafront) is where I chose to dine courtesy of my Valentine on recommendation from Rosie, my Mum, and everyone else that’s ever been there.

I think their set menu is a strong contender for best value food in the whole city. At 3 courses for £13.50 – a meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetable dish – even on a Friday night it’s cheaper than most of the chain restaurants, and the food is lush.

Use the booking system on their website and they’ll drop you an email to confirm availability. This place is hot at the moment for good reason, if I had to choose one restaurant from this list that I insist you try it’d be this one.

 

Patty & Bun

56 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AF

Patty & Bun

The above pics are from Patty & Bun‘s launch night earlier this month at which I was a guest. They’re a small chain that have just opened up on Ship St (right opposite The Font) specialising in filthy burgers.

The selection of sides is modest but they’re all excellent. I particularly loved the ‘thunder thighs’ (£6, bottom left) – deep fried chicken thighs in a smoked jalapeno butter sauce, the wings (£6.50) are great too. After gorging on chicken to begin, I went with the ‘ari gold’ cheeseburger (£8.50) with a big old hunk of fried cheese added, this is something you can do to any of their burgers for an extra £4 and I strongly recommend that you do.

Semolina

15 Baker Street, Brighton, BN1 4JN

Semolina, Brighton

Is this my favourite restaurant in Brighton? Quite possibly, it’s definitely my most frequented. This is where we go if ever my Grandparents come to visit because they both adore it too.

They have a weekly changing set menu – 3 courses for £15 – that runs from Wednesday to Saturday 12-3pm. I’ve never had a single course from this menu that I haven’t adored. Nothing that I’ve been ‘meh’ about, ever. I’ve reviewed Semolina in full before if you wanna learn more about them.

Pictured above is minestrone with kale pesto, roast cod with shrimp butter, beef and pork belly ragu with gnocchi and pana cotta with almond and orange cake.

7Bone

120 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2AE

7Bone, Hove

Another new (well, new-ish) burger joint is 7bone, way out in the depths of Hove. These guys are gonna set you back a little less than P&B thanks to their basket deals (any main + dirty side for £11.95 or any main + regular side for £10.45) but for me its hard to choose between them.

I’d say the food at P&B just slightly had the edge, but if you want to spend a little less, walk a little further and get waited on by the sweetest waitresses (they were all so lovely) then 7bone is your bag. I went purely because The Brighton Girl grammed a picture of their one big chicken burger that has hash browns in it, so it’s good for the novelty factor too.

Et voila. This is probably gonna be real clunky in its first couple of months so bear with me while I find the right groove. See you next month for more of the same..

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